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Lessons Learned on the Race Course


Photo provided by Sydney Abad

Women’s novice eights raced against each other in a couple of the short sprints at last weekend’s regatta.


By Sydney Fulgham

Novice Rower

The week before Sacramento, everyone was so hyped up. I remember thinking to myself that this race was going to be one that I remembered forever.

Being up at 4am that morning and traveling on the bus with all the girls was so fun but a long and mentally taxing day. I remember getting there around 1 or 2 in the afternoon and having to immediately unload all of our equipment and start to rig up the boats.

Even practicing the race course that day I was a bundle of nerves anticipating the following day. That night we had a boat meeting and discussed our strategies for the upcoming day. All I could focus on was Coach Smitty’s calmness and tried to channel it towards me because I was a wreck.

We got good sleep, (it was a relief not waking up at 4:50am) and headed towards the race course as the rain began to come down. As soon as we got onto the water I knew there was no turning back; I had a commitment to my boat and was going to push my hardest for the girls in my boat. I remember getting to the starting line was a bit hectic — trying to find the other boats that we were numerically before or after and trying to maneuver around other idle boats that got to the start early for their race.

Before I knew it, the race had begun, and I experienced a shot of adrenaline I had only experienced a few times before. The race was exhilarating and surprisingly fast. I don’t know if it was because the rain had started pouring on us, or if it was because I was with such amazing teammates, that I felt like I was invincible in the boat that day. We finished fourth, only 4 seconds behind third place, and I was feeling extremely happy about it.

In comparison to the Sacramento head race to the Naples Island Pancake regatta, I definitely realized where I can improve. The first difference was I was racing in a four that I had only rowed in once before our race, which made me feel uncomfortable compared to my bow seat in my eight boat.

Another thing was I seemed more distracted and unfocused when we raced on our home grounds. During the race I caught myself looking outside of the boat at other shells instead of the girls back in front of me. I knew we were much slower than the other girls even as we did our warm-up course, but that didn’t deter me from giving my best that race.

The race in Sac was a 5k compared to our 4.4k in Long Beach. The 4 made feel more tired and I felt as if I was exerting much more energy trying to pull the four than the eight. Coming down the final 2k was extremely hard for me knowing that my friends and family were there to see me race. I rowed that straight away every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for almost three months now and for some reason it felt like I was pulling a brick behind me. The girls in my boat worked hard but I knew we could have pushed together as a group harder those last 2000 meters.

Knowing this now I realize how important it is to keep my focus in the boat and be 100% mentally in tune with the other girls in my boat. Needless to say both of these head races proved to be valuable learning lessons on determination, focus, and mental/physical stability inside and outside of the boat.


Check out the start of one of the novice women’s sprints!

Provided by Sydney Santana

Novice Eight at Naples


Photo provided by Frances Espinoza