Mason Rowing Crews Look to Make a Splash at Head of the Charles Regatta

Posted: October 17, 2013 at 5:03 am, Last Updated: October 21, 2013 at 7:03 am

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By Buzz McClain

George Mason University will have men’s and women’s boats competing this weekend at Boston’s Head of the Charles Regatta, pitting the two George Mason shells against some of the fastest teams in the country in “one of the best regattas in the world,” says women’s varsity rowing head coach Ted Nagorsen. Organizers say 10,000 competitors, including national, international and Olympic squads, will take to the water in front of some 400,000 spectators.

The Mason women's rowing team will be competing in the Head of the Charles this weekend. Photo courtesy of Mason Athletics

The Mason women’s rowing team will be competing in the Head of the Charles Regatta this weekend. Photo courtesy of Mason Athletics

“It’s so large, you have to finish in the top half to be allowed back next year,” Nagorsen says of the race.

“This regatta is considered the world championship of head racing,” says crew club head coach Robert Spousta.

For first-year head coach Nagorsen and the Patriot rowers, the Head of the Charles is a prime opportunity to scout top athletes as more than 60 high schools are entering 8-rower shells. The coaching staff has lined up meetings with their top recruits and the regatta “gives the high school kids a chance to see the university at a prestigious regatta, so it works both ways.”

Mason’s debut in the Atlantic 10 athletic conference has added momentum to a program that was already moving forward. “It’s a very exciting time to be with this rowing program,” Nagorsen says. “This sport on this campus is taking off. As far as recruiting is concerned, three years ago we only one or two recruits come in a year; this past year we had eight girls come in fresh and new to the team.

“We’re getting a lot more looks, and I give credit to the university itself; it’s growth and it’s academic reputation is getting more interest all around. Our recruiting pool has expanded from 150 girls to 250 girls, from Virginia and New Jersey to the West Coast and Vancouver to Florida. It’s a really fun time to be part of this team.”

Mason's crew club will also be competing in the Head of the Charles Regatta. This is their __ year of participation in the event. Photo courtesy of Mason Crew

Mason’s crew club will also be competing in the Head of the Charles Regatta. The team has finished in the top half of the event for the past eight years. Photo courtesy of Mason Crew

The Mason women will host the A-10 rowing championships this year at their home water at Sandy Run Regional Park on the Occoquan Reservoir on May 4, an event Nagorsen sees as another opportunity to promote his team and the sport. “High school rowing is so dominant in the area people don’t realize we have big time NCAA Division I women’s rowing in our backyard,” he says. “The winner of the A-10 regatta will represent the conference in the NCAA national championship — the pinnacle of collegiate rowing. This will be a very elite regatta.”

For Mason’s other crew team (the club is co-ed, with six female coxswains), it’s a club sport and has been since it’s founding in 1981. Spousta, head coach for 27 years, says competing at the Head of the Charles for his team means prestige. “You’re competing against Northeastern, Harvard, Yale and Princeton in this race; you’re surrounded by Ivy League varsity teams.”

The races are time trials, and each shell gets just one chance on the water to beat the clock. “Your time is determined by the weather, the current, the headwind,” he says. It’s an exercise that recognizes the devotion of the club members.

The Patriot men have finished in the top half of the event for the last eight years, generating an automatic return the following year, a result of the effort the athletes — about 40 of them — put into their four-times-a-week practices at Sandy Run as well as their additional conditioning workouts.

More information about the Head of the Charles is here. The regatta takes place Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day and is free to the public.

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