Dec. 3, 2015
By Russell Dorn
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Coming off another trip to the NCAA Championships during the 2014-15 season, the University of Notre Dame rowing program certainly didn’t rest of its laurels this fall season, as the Irish showed continued improvement in two regattas while competing against some of the country’s best rowers.
Notre Dame opened the fall season at the 51st annual Head of the Charles Regatta on the Charles River in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The Head of the Charles is arguably the most impressive regatta in the world when it comes to sheer numbers. Upwards of 150,000 people flood the banks of the Charles River to watch 2,000+ boats and 10,000+ competitors battle back and forth over two days in mid-October.
Notre Dame boasted two boats – a championship four and a championship eight – and an alumni boat in the field. In addition, a pair of former Irish standouts in Molly Bruggeman (’14) and Erin Boxberger competed for US Rowing in the championship four race.
The championship four finished seventh in 18:56.107 while the championship eight placed 13th in 16:58.258. The alumni boat claimed 23rd in 19:26.235. All three boats locked up their spot in the 2016 version of the Head of the Charles Regatta.
Bruggeman and Boxberger helped lead the US Rowing team to victory in the championship four boat (17:33.793).
Senior Jill Ryan was the coxswain for the championship four boat that enjoyed great success in Cambridge.
“The atmosphere at the Charles is absolutely incomparable to any other race in our fall or spring schedules,” said the Brentwood, Tennessee native. “Somehow a race that’s three times longer than our normal 2K distance still goes by in the blink of an eye. It’s impossible not to get excited when you hear the roar of people cheering above you as you pass under each of the six bridges on the course.
“As a coxswain, it’s pretty exciting to be able to say that I raced in the same event as Mary Whipple (2008 & 2012 Olympic women’s eight gold medalist coxswain). I’ve spent a lot of time watching her and trying to learn from her, so that was such an honor. As a team, I think competing at the Charles is just a reminder that even though we’re usually practicing alone on the St. Joe River in sub-par weather, the rowing world really is an enormous and diverse community.”
Meanwhile, senior Sarah Kappers competed with the championship eight boat for the second year in a row at the Head of the Charles.
“On Saturday, we had time to walk around the course, watch some racing and take in the atmosphere,” said Kappers. “The Head of the Charles gives us a chance to see the passion and enthusiasm other people share for the sport. Fans line the bridges to cheer during the races, and it makes us excited to be there and have the opportunity to race.
“We are thankful to compete and represent Notre Dame at such a prestigious and historical event. Racing against the top club and collegiate teams in the country gives us the opportunity to challenge ourselves and see where we stand at this point in the season.”
For Martin Stone, the only head coach in the history of the Irish rowing program, attending the Head of the Charles never gets old.
“It’s a phenomenal event. It’s probably the rowing event of the year in that it gathers people from all over the world. It’s pretty amazing to sit on the shore and watch former Olympians, Notre Dame alums and others row by. There are special stories with each of them. It kind of gives you a history lesson of rowing all in one spot.”
A couple of weeks after the Charles, the Irish ventured to Griggs Reservoir in Columbus, Ohio for an exhibition regatta against three-time defending national champion Ohio State, regular NCAA standouts Indiana and Michigan and Big Ten opponent Michigan State.
“The fall has shown we are on track,” said Stone. “From our objective testing on the erg machine and how we did against actual competition at our two fall races it shows we are farther ahead than this time last year and that our boat speed is up pretty much all the way through the team. We now go into winter training where we’ve made up a lot of speed in the past and work on getting more fit. We feel really positive exiting the fall.”
The Irish open their spring 2016 slate in Oak Ridge, Tennessee at the Cardinal/Oak Ridge Invitational March 12-13.
For more information on the Notre Dame rowing program, follow the Irish on Facebook (/NDWomensRowing) and Twitter (@NDRowing).
Russell Dorn, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2011 and coordinates all media efforts for the Notre Dame volleyball, rowing and baseball programs. A native of Greenwood, South Carolina, Dorn graduated from Furman University in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in history before earning his master’s degree in sports communications from Georgia State University in 2011.