After a slow start on Sunday against George Washington, the North Carolina rowing team’s varsity eight boat kicked into a new gear on familiar waters to power past George Mason.
The boat fell short against George Washington, attributing the loss to an unaggressive start to the morning.
“We started a bit timid, and we were really reacting to what George Washington was doing instead of attacking ourselves,” junior Victoria McGee said.
All but one of UNC's boats followed suit, with the second varsity eight, varsity four and novice eight boats also losing to the Colonials.
The sluggish start wouldn’t discourage the Tar Heels, though. Just hours later, they put together a better performance against George Mason on its home course, with the varsity eight and varsity four boats winning their races.
Although it was the away team, UNC felt an advantage rowing in Occoquan, Va. Having already competed on the course twice this season, the team felt more relaxed with the familiar waters.
“So much of rowing is technique,” said junior Kylee Wooten. “When we know what to expect from a course, we can rest a bit easier before the race because we already know what adjustments we have to make.”
But the team’s comfort with the course itself didn’t mean the whole team enjoys playing at Occoquan. With a large hill leading up to the water, the team is forced to carry its 200-pound boats up and down the hill after each race — meaning there’s no love lost for some rowers when they race there.
For the varsity eight boat, senior motivation also contributed to its dominant performance against George Mason.
“We see George Mason a lot. They beat us a lot, and we beat them a lot,” said Wooten, a member of the varsity eight boat. “This was a chance for the four seniors on my boat to take them down one last time.”
Even with the extra motivation, the team was faced with an added challenge Sunday.
The Tar Heels were forced to race two tough competitors just hours apart, meaning pushing it to the limit would prove more than simply a mental obstacle.
“Rowing two races in a day is pretty grueling,” McGee said, “But racing two hours apart is even worse."
“The key is just knowing and trusting that you’ve done enough all season to be physically ready for a challenge like that.”
For Coach Sarah Haney, her job is to ensure her players are ready for that challenge, even if it means putting her players through some pain beforehand.
“My goal is to make the practices so hard that the races don’t seem so bad,” Haney said.
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