READING, England – The Merrimack College women’s rowing team wrapped up its memorable trip to England by competing against one of the best clubs in the entire United Kingdom in the Frank V. Harry Cup as part of the 29th Henley Women’s Regatta on Saturday.
Merrimack was matched against the Tideway Scullers School’s Finn boat in the Senior Coxed Fours race. TSS is one of the top rowing clubs in not just England, but all of the United Kingdom, and fielded an impressive team with an average age of over 27 years old per rower. TSS’ boat also was comprised of a former two-time Olympian (Kate Grose), a former Team England rower (Caroline Matthews), a world record holder (Judith Schulz) and a Great Britain National champ (Andrea Finn).
That being said, the Warriors still raced admirably and fell short by a mere single length, completing the race in an estimated time of 5:47.
“We were sad to lose, but are proud of putting our best effort on the water,” head coach Dave LeFebvre said afterward. “This was Merrimack’s most complete race of the year – possibly ever since I’ve been with the program. TSS was just a little bit quicker, but we were grateful to have been in the water – and very much in the running – against such a prestigious program.”
Prior to competing over the weekend, the team had the opportunity to train with the University of West of England (UWE) on several occasions. Both sides enjoyed some extremely competitive practice races to highlight a phenomenal training experience.
“Merrimack Rowing definitely got noticed,” LeFebvre continued. “We became sort of a crowd favorite over the weekend. Everyone loved our team blazers and yellow wellies, and they all heard our cheers from the shore along the entire race course.”
The team also organized a tour of the Leander Club while they were there. Leander is the oldest rowing club in world dating back to 1818 and also doubles as the current Olympic Training Center for rowing in the United Kingdom. One of the current Team Great Britain athletes, Jack Beaumont, gave the team a tour of their facilities and gave an overview of the experience of rowing with the Olympic Team.
The trip also featured the generosity of a few host families that the team stayed with, who were incredibly welcoming and accommodating.
“We really felt like we were sharing a home and became immersed in the culture,” LeFebvre said. “They even threw a surprise birthday party for one of our student-athletes.”
Finally, on the final night of the trip, the team had dinner with all the friends and family that made the voyage across the pond, putting a bow on an incredible experience.