Based on the regular season results, the Navy women's rowing team were strong favorites going into the Patriot League Championships, an automatic qualifier for the NCAA Championships, on Saturday morning on the Cooper River. But as all athletes know, being the favorite can be complicated - though maybe not so much for the focused cadets in the Navy crews, who were chatting and laughing at the starting line in almost all their crews, in contrast to the buttoned up perception folks sometimes have of academy students.
"We wanted to be in that position," Navy head coach Joe Schlosberg said of the favorite status. "But the way these women are wired, they put a lot of pressure on themselves, and they have a lot of pressure on a daily basis with their lives at the Naval Academy. They're really intense and they're fierce competitors, but I think part of the way they express that is they need to have these moments they can express themselves, be goofy and be loud and let things loose."
Schlosberg said he and the team have increased the intensity and amount of training gradually over the past few years, and the work paid off both in speed and approach.
"We have ratcheted things up a bit more each year to try to make things a little more difficult, try to challenge ourselves, and to race better against faster teams. By doing so I think it's allowed us to be comfortable with these situations. We've had tough moments, we've had struggles, but as a result of the work we have some people who are able stay calm in tough situations."
The squad did face some tough situations, including a disastrous crab in the Varsity Four that took the four from a pretty comfortable first place with 200 meters to go to turning sideways on the course. The crew recovered enough to place fifth, and coupled with wins in both the V8 and 2V8, was able to hold onto the team championship and the AQ spot.
"The day was far from perfect," Schlosberg admitted. "We try to set them up so that even on their worse day that we're still in a position to win, and I think we did that. The winds definitely picked up between the heats and the final and changed the condition to make it a little more rough. Each boat has put themselves ahead of the field, and one boat just got caught. They took a bad stroke and things went south pretty quickly. But I give them credit for fighting and putting themselves in a good position in spite of the conditions. "
Schlosberg noted that the squad is pretty young overall, but has a work ethic that is starting to pay off.
Navy Varsity 8
"It's a young group, and I've been very impressed that they've come in throughout the year, done the hard work without blinking an eye, and \ have tried to push things a little more this year. We still have a ways go to in terms of our growth, but I think that they're starting to see that hard work pay off. It's a lot of fun whenever any team gets to that point. I'm really excited to see this growth continue, to see them develop and have fun doing it."
Although the Navy squad is already qualified for the NCAA's, they will be watching on Tuesday when all the teams are selected - and getting to work in the meantime.
"It is exciting to try to increase in our position amongst the depth in the country, and it is still unfinished business right now," he said. "We will want to go and throw down and see what we can do, and to try be better than we were last year and the year before.
"There's still that hunger to prove that we belong there, and as long as that's there, it's going to be a trip that everyone is still pushes forward and gets excited by.
"It is a relief to know that although we're a few days out from the selection on Tuesday, we can take a relax a little, and then come back tomorrow and start the training process. But it is definitely a moment to take a deep breath and to enjoy - for at least a few hours."