Willamette Women's Varsity 4+ Finishes Fifth at Head of the Charles Regatta

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110

BOSTON, MASS. -- The Willamette University women's varsity 4+ crew rowed an outstanding race on Saturday, Oct. 20, as the Bearcats took fifth place out of 32 entries in the Collegiate Women's 4+ event at the prestigious Head of the Charles Regatta on the Charles River in Boston, Mass. WU recorded a time of 19:45.470 over the three-mile course.

"I'm thrilled to bits," said Willamette Head Coach Susan Parkman. "They're all racers (Willamette's WV4+ crew); they don't ever like to be behind."

First place went to the Marquette University Rowing Club (Wisc.) with a time of 19:19.167. Second place was recorded by Simmons College (Mass.) in 19:27.078, with third going to the Western Rowing Club in a time of 19:30.020. Wheaton College (Mass.) took fourth place after clocking in at 19:41.030. Willamette's fifth place finish was just 4.34 seconds behind Wheaton and 26.303 off the pace set by Marquette.

The Top 10 also included William Smith College (N.Y.) in sixth at 19:48.279, the University of Maryland in seventh at 19:51.052, the Emory University Crew Club (Ga.) in eighth at 20:02.120, the Pen State Crew in ninth at 20:03.405 (including a 10-second penalty) and the Texas Crew in 10th at 20:06.911.

Competing for Willamette in the Collegiate Women's 4+ race were coxswain Erica Soma (Fr., Scotts Valley, CA/Scotts Valley HS), stroke Lauren Schwartz (Sr., Medford, OR/St. Mary's HS), three-seat Laura Jones (Sr., Boise, ID/Boise HS), two-seat Hilary Andrus (So., Chimacum, WA/Chimacum HS) and bow Julie Vernarsky (So., Enterprise, OR/Enterprise HS).

Willamette's preparations for the Head of the Charles Regatta began earlier this fall. Parkman and the Bearcats worked hard to be very well prepared for the event. Practicing on the Willamette River on a regular basis gave the Bearcats an edge over some of the other teams.

"We would make huge turns," Parkman said regarding workouts on the Willamette, "just to practice some of the maneuvers we would have to do under some of these bridges (on the Charles River)."

"We were used to the current and using the shore as a great way to keep our points. And we were used to the curves," added Schwartz. "The Head of the Charles is a very twisting course. It's not just a straight shot."

The crews' efforts outside of the water also helped.

"I had a video and a DVD of the course (Head of the Charles) that Erica Soma (the coxswain) and the girls watched a few times," Parkman said. "When we got here, they knew the bridges and the turns."

Varsity collegiate entries were allowed only from NCAA Division II and NCAA Division III member institutions. Crews from NCAA Division I institutions were required to be club teams, not varsity squads. Several teams in the race also represented local club teams from their respective communities.

The Head of the Charles Regatta is the world's largest two-day rowing event. It began in 1965 and was established by Cambridge Boat Club members along with the rowing instructor at Harvard University. Winners receive the honorary title of "Head of the Charles." This year, more than 7,500 athletes were expected to participate in 52 events, including master's, collegiate, club and youth races. The HOCR became a two-day event in 1997. It typically attracts up to 300,000 spectators along the Charles River.

"It was so intense because there were so many boats out there. And there were so many curves. I'd never rowed in a race that big ... there was nothing that could prepare you for it," said Jones, who participated in two National Team camps this past summer.

WU quickly established a fast pace. With starting times separated by about 20 seconds between boats, the Bearcats knew it was a good sign when they passed other competitors.

"At the beginning, you pretty much have to feel it out," Soma said. "They (WU's rowers) started out at a 30-stroke rate, which was about two strokes (per minute) faster than we planned. Then we started moving on the other boats. It just seemed like they were doing really well at the higher rate, so I just kept it there."

Head of the Charles Regatta - Collegiate Women's 4+ Race - Complete Results

Additional Quotes
From Head Coach Susan Parkman and the Bearcats regarding the Head of the Charles Regatta

Lauren Schwartz was stroke seat for Willamette at the Head of the Charles Regatta on Oct. 20.

Lauren Schwartz was stroke seat for Willamette at the Head of the Charles Regatta on Oct. 20.