Women's Varsity 4+ Set to Compete at Head of the Charles Regatta

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

SALEM, ORE. -- The Willamette University women’s varsity 4+ crew will compete at the prestigious Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston, Mass., which will be held on Saturday, Oct. 20 and Sunday, Oct. 21. The Bearcats will row against 32 other collegiate and club teams in the WV4+ event.

Joining Head Coach Susan Parkman on the trip to the East Coast will be 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).

What an opportunity!," Parkman said. "The Head of the Charles is the most exciting regatta imaginable for any rower or coxswain. In fact many consider it a coxswain's race since their actions have a much greater impact on the outcome of the race. The course steers three miles through a windy Charles river and passes under seven bridges.

"There is a boat starting every 20 seconds all day Saturday and Sunday," Parkman continued. "This creates many tight scenarios of passing, strategic decisions on course steering ... overall, a very exciting twenty-plus minutes of our rowers simply pulling hard to be as fast they can over three miles."

The WV4+ race at the 43rd Head of the Charles will include crews from Penn State University, the University of Richmond, Northwestern University, the University of Maryland, Marquette University, Georgia Tech University and the College of William and Mary.

Willamette, the only Northwest Region entry in the collegiate women’s 4+ event, will also take on the University of California-San Diego from NCAA Division II, as well as NCAA Division III teams from Simmons College (Mass.), William Smith College, Carnegie Mellon University, Middlebury College, Wheaton College (Mass.), Rochester Institute of Technology, Bowdoin College (2 entries), Lesley University, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, Rutgers University-Camden, California Maritime Academy, Union College (N.Y.), Hamilton College, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, University of Chicago, Connecticut College, University of Rochester and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

Also participating will be NAIA teams from Simon Fraser University (Canada) and the University of British Columbia (Canada), as well as club teams from Emory University, Roger Williams University, Texas Crew and the Western Rowing Club. Willamette competes in NCAA Division III, the Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association (WIRA), the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) and the Northwest Collegiate Rowing Conference (NCRC).

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. As with other "Head Races," the HOCR features three-mile events with teams in each category starting sequentially about 20 seconds apart. Winners receive the honorary title of "Head of the Charles." This year, more than 7,500 athletes will 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 in Cambridge, Mass.

Events begin at 8:30 a.m. (EDT) each day. Races are scheduled to begin virtually non-stop until the final race gets underway at 4:40 p.m. on Saturday and 4:22 pm. on Sunday. The collegiate WV4+ race is slated to start on Saturday at 1:55 p.m. (EDT). Willamette will be boating out of the Cambridge Boat Club.

"The WU gals have been training very hard for this event," Parkman said. "They are motivated by the excitement of racing crews they have never even heard of from different parts of the country. This will allow Willamette's name to be heard by thousands on the banks of the Charles as they announce the crew when it races by.

"Our strategy is to focus on what we can control: our pacing, our will power, our focus, our synergy of working together as we do every morning when we train on the Willamette River," Parkman continued. We are focused on doing well at the Head of the Charles, one of the worlds greatest regattas."

Erica Soma is the coxswain who will guide Willamette's WV4+ crew at the Head of the Charles Regatta.

Erica Soma is the coxswain who will guide Willamette's WV4+ crew at the Head of the Charles Regatta.