Last weekend the Devils traveled to Oak Ridge, TN to compete in the Southern Intercollegiate Rowing Association’s Championship regatta. The regatta serves as a regional championship regatta for club and varsity programs alike, and marks the end of Duke Crew’s regular season. The Devils brought a Novice Four (J. Pfeiffer, K. Vasudevan, A. Aganbi, E. Chen, Z. Zaidi (cox)), Varsity Four (J. Schwartz, A. Norwood, R. Sabbaugh, P. Poliakoff, R. Makhema (cox)) and Varsity Lightweight Eight (M. Chu (cox), B. Shui, D. Gollamudi, N. Hyder, M. Nehls, J. Borrey, J. Sullivan, D. Short, J. Giudice).The Novice Four placed third in their heat and advanced to the event’s semifinals. Against a deep field, Duke struggled in the semifinals and was relegated to the C-level final. The Devils had a better showing in the final and placed 2nd behind Virginia Tech.
“I thought the novice looked the best in the final. It was good that they ended the regatta with a quality race, but I’m sure they’d like to re-race the semifinal.” Head Coach Paul Menson said, “Coach Urbanczyk has done a good job bringing the novice on board and getting them together, but it just didn’t pan out. Hopefully they remember this race when they return in the fall.”
The Devils’ Lightweight Eight was one of six boats, so the event was a final-only race on Sunday. Overwhelmed by the stage that comes as part of the day’s premier lightweight race, Duke fell to a field that included two nationally ranked crews.
“The lightweights were a little unprepared for their race mentally – it’s one thing to hear that the other crews will be fast out of the gates, and other thing to be next to them in the blocks.” Menson said, “They looked more confident last week against Emory, but it’s pretty clear they left it all on the course. It’s a little disappointing to be sure, but they were racing in the big-leagues this weekend. I’m glad they had an opportunity to measure themselves against established programs, and I’m sure they’ll learn from this weekend.”
Duke’s priority boat, the Varsity Four, advanced to semifinals by placing second in their heats. Similarly, the four placed second to Florida in the semifinals to make the event’s Grand Final. Duke executed in the final but fell to a last-minute charge by Grand Valley State University, who edged them into fourth place by less than a second.
“This four’s put in an unbelievable amount of work throughout the year.” Menson said, “At the beginning of the year I told the team I wanted our top four in the Grands at SIRAs – and these young men delivered. Missing a medal hurts, but this is an important step in their growth as men and as athletes. The effort was there but it was clear that they were a little jittery in the final. As the sting fades, I think they’ll start to understand what they’ve done for Duke Crew and the University as a whole.
“The whole team, really, stepped up and responded to my challenges all year. As the team grows we’ll begin to develop the depth and culture that forms of the core of a nationally competitive team. Above all, I’m happy that these kids enjoy the sport of rowing as much as they do – as a coach, that was my biggest goal.”
While the SIRA regatta marks the end of Duke’s regular season, select individuals have been invited to represent Duke at the Aberdeen Dad Vail and ACRA Championship regattas. Selection for these crews will be done throughout the next week and the boats will be announced when that process has been completed.