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Illinois rowing competes in first regatta of the season

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Women’s Varsity 8+ (UChicago Varsity 8+ on dock as well), Illinois Collegiate Rowing Invitational in Clinton Lake, DeWitt, Illinois in April 2014.

Women’s Varsity 8+ (UChicago Varsity 8+ on dock as well), Illinois Collegiate Rowing Invitational in Clinton Lake, DeWitt, Illinois in April 2014.

Women’s Varsity 8+ (UChicago Varsity 8+ on dock as well), Illinois Collegiate Rowing Invitational in Clinton Lake, DeWitt, Illinois in April 2014.

Jacob Lewis, contributing writer

The Illinois men’s and women’s rowing teams opened their fall season last weekend, traveling to Rockford, Illinois, to compete in the Head of the Rock meet.

Multiple crews competed in the races, with many finishing in the “middle of the pack,” as head coach Cameron Carter put it. Both the men’s and women’s teams sent novice crews to the event.

This is Carter’s first competition as head coach after replacing Bill Grier, who is now the program director for the Illini. Carter has been coaching college rowing for 25 years, including 15 years at Washington University in St. Louis. He says he’s still adjusting to the program and trying to get a feel for the team.

Lindsey Cusack, a junior on the varsity women’s team, says the coaching change has been a positive for the Illini.

“He came at the right time,” Cusack said. “The team was ready for a change.”

Carter said he’s happy with the way his team competed, especially against strong programs like Michigan and Purdue.

“When these kids on our team, when they’re coming out, they don’t get to choose who they race against,” Carter said.

He added that the team still needs to work on technique, as well as adapting to one another.

Senior Owen Skelding, the varsity men’s team captain, felt good about his team’s performance.

“We helped establish a foundation that we can build upon,” he said. “We think our results from this weekend help us set up for future success and improvement.”

The rowing team welcomed its largest novice group in school history in September with a total of 44 new athletes.

Carter said the influx of new rowers has put a strain on the program’s resources, with not enough equipment for all athletes to use. The novice class has not been able to practice as often as the team would like, and Carter acknowledged that it is a disadvantage.

Despite the equipment struggles, Carter says that he is looking forward to seeing how this novice class develops under assistant coaches Noel Naughton and Michelle Victora. He wants to see them become more confident as the season progresses.

Skelding expressed optimism about the new group going forward.

“We’re really excited about the potential we see in this novice class,” he said.

The rowing team hopes to build upon its performance on Sunday. They send two varsity crews to the Head of the Charles regatta in Boston on Oct. 22.

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