Coming into the season, there was some concern among Madison’s returning rowers that the Warhawks’ top girls boat might not be able to match the high bar it set last year, when it won the Virginia state championship and placed second in the nation.
Any worry that the Warhawks might backslide this season were largely put to rest at the Regional Park Regatta on the Occoquan River Saturday, as the Madison girls’ first eight cruised to its second straight victory, besting second place Jefferson by nearly seven seconds in the final.
“This weekend was really interesting because we had a lot more schools coming to race against us,” said junior Caroline Williams, one of the boat’s six returning members from last season. “We were really nervous. We don’t hesitate to get nervous before races. We’ve never been the boat who’s like ‘oh, we’ve won all these races, and now we’re just going to continue winning, we don’t have to get nervous.’ Every single race, we still are nervous.”
Madison won Saturday’s first eight final with a time of 4 minutes 55.3 seconds, ahead of Jefferson (5:02.16) and third place W.T. Woodson (5:09.34). On the boys side, Jefferson’s first eight crossed the finish line with a time of 4:31.5, just over two seconds ahead of second place Oakton and almost three and a half seconds ahead of third place Madison.
For Williams, winning Saturday’s race as well as last weekend’s Polar Bear Regatta has eased some of the pressure she said her team was feeling coming into the season. With three new rowers in the boat this season, including one transfer from West Potomac, Williams said she and her teammates were concerned that their boat might not be able to maintain its momentum from last year.
“We actually thought about that a lot. We had been a little bit worried that we weren’t going to be as fast as we were last year,” she said. “Of course we really had no reason to think that because we had so many returning rowers and everything. We just want to be humble about things. We tweaked a lot of stuff in our start and throughout our entire race to make sure that we weren’t lagging anywhere”
Starting the 2012 season strong is part of larger plan from Madison Coach Paul Allbright, who has preached consistency to his team as a means of building a successful program not just this season, but well into the future.
“What I think I try to have the girls want to think, from a mental standpoint, is ‘let’s try to create a legacy. Let’s not be a flash in the pan,’” he said. “I think it’s something that we are very clear about wanting to try to create a tradition and a commitment to excellence for us to be able to keep it going for the future of the team, too.”