Although sports like rowing generally fly below the radar due to the fact that it is far less of a spectator sport than baseball or lacrosse, who students can watch play on campus, the Fairfield University women’s rowing team is having a rather commendable season. With only four races scheduled for the spring season, there has been a lot of pressure on the athletes to compete well to secure good standing going into the 2021 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championships. 

The rowers started out their season in late March, when they took on crosstown rivals, Sacred Heart University. Since then, Stags’ Varsity 8 boat has been remarkably successful. On March 27, they took the first place spot out of eight boats competing, crossing the line with a time of 7:10.14. In the boat were Natalia Bertolotti ‘23, Florencia Caces ‘23, Christina Caruso ‘23, Alexis Mason ‘22, Isabella King ‘23, Grace Fallon ‘22, Audrey Sedensky ‘22, Ana McDonough ‘22 and coxswain Faith Kenny ‘22. The boat was brought back for the third race of the day, where they finished in 7:33.22 in second place. 

“Everyone put in a great effort. Extra praise is extended to our walk-ons who have had less days in a boat pre first race than I believe any walk-ons in our history having had the fall season essentially null and void with regard to time in the boat… We have more work to do but we raced and learned a lot in the process,” said head coach Dave Patterson in a statement made to FairfieldStags.com following the team’s debut. 

“Our season so far has been successful. We have gone out on the race course and had some really powerful and confident races. There is definitely more work to be done but I am excited to see what we can accomplish in the following weeks,” said McDonough.

Returning to competition meant a lot to these rowers who were excited to come back despite the many adaptations that they were forced to make. Sedensky was particularly enthusiastic to get the season started, as a captain of the team. “Getting back on the water has been the goal since March 2020. My team was willing to face all challenges and headaches that came with rowing and racing this spring. It meant masks in the boat, masks on the erg, masks everywhere. It is not easy doing test pieces with a mask on, but if that means we get to keep rowing, we will do it! The hardest part is not being able to see my family cheering my teammates and I on at races,” she said.

The Stags returned to the Pioneers’ water in Shelton, Conn. at the Sacred Heart Invitational on April 11 to take on Sacred Heart and Iona College. Again, the Varsity 8 highlighted Fairfield’s performance. All in all, the roster was similar, with a few tweaks made to the boat for that Sunday’s race. Bertolotti, Caces, Fallon, Sedensky, King and Kenny kept their spots, but new faces included underclassmen Anastasia Szymanski ‘23 and Kathryn Bergstrom ‘24. The group shaved almost a full 30 seconds off of their previous race’s time, edging Sacred Heart with a time of 6:44.59. SHU trailed behind by a mere 1.69 seconds (6:46.28).

“It feels really great when you pass the line and know you were first and just finally relax and catch your breath,” remarked Fallon regarding her feelings at the finish. “Seven minutes, the average length of our race, doesn’t sound that long, but when you are pushing yourself to the absolute maximum it feels so much better to know the effort was worth it because you won.”

In their third meeting of this spring, Fairfield traveled to Leonia, N.J. to compete against Sacred Heart, Loyola University Maryland and host Manhattan College at the New York Rowing Association Overpeck Lake Training Center. Though the Stags’ first Varsity 8 boat, made up of Kenny, McDonough, Sedensky, Fallon King, Mason, Szymanski, Caces and Bertolotti, wasn’t able to notch the top spot, finishing the 2,000 meter run behind SHU (7:28.35), their second Varsity 8 and Varsity Four boats topped the leaderboards. The second Varsity 8 boat clocked in at 7:44.22 while the Varsity Four finished at 8:51.27. 

“One single good rower is nothing if the rest of the boat is not in time together or pressing down on the foot plates with all their power. My boat is constantly improving. The most you can ever ask of your boat mates is that no matter what they are pulling on the oar as hard as they can with you to win. I know that everyone in my boat is pulling their hardest for the team,” said Sedensky.

Fallon echoed that sentiment, also speaking very highly of her teammates. “The other women in my boat are amazing and I am always pushing myself so hard to stay at the level that we all expect from each other. The whole team wants a seat in our boat so I know that anyone who gets the chance to sit there deserves it and has earned it.”

“We have had a lot of training behind us and we have a lot of training ahead of us but I believe that we could make a real impact at the MAAC this season. We have looked at COVID as an opportunity instead of a setback and I look forward to seeing what happens on May 16,” remarked McDonough.

Looking forward to the MAAC’s which are slated for May 16 at Cooper River Park in Pennsauken Township, N.J., the Stags seem to be prepared to compete against their biggest competition pool of the season. Participants include Canisius College, Drake University, Iona College, Manhattan College, Marist College, Jacksonville University, Robert Morris University, Sacred Heart University and Stetson University.

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