Sunny success in Ithaca
The beautiful weather in Ithaca, N.Y., this past weekend brought forth an equally beautiful performance by Buffalo's rowing team.
Facing off against their best competition to date, the Bulls finished in second-place in four out of five races on Friday against No. 7 nationally ranked Michigan State and Gonzaga. Buffalo also managed to top Syracuse on Saturday afternoon while also rowing stroke for stroke with the nation's top crew, Yale.
Led by sophomore coxswain Alison Sheehan, Buffalo's Second Varsity Eight Boat finished in 6:48.3, only nine seconds behind first-place Michigan State and twenty seconds in front of third-place Gonzaga. Alongside Sheehan were seniors Sam Masucci and Kelsey Tretter, juniors Lindsay DiCosimo and Ashley Hanhurst, sophomores Alexandra Condon, Dakota Smith, and Jacklyn Postulka, as well as freshman Danielle Carlino.
"What we have is a very young, talented team," said head coach Rudy Wheeler. "Racing against the competition that we did, and performing how we did against them, definitely makes it seem that we deserve a national ranking."
The Bulls also managed to finish second in the Varsity Four race. Buffalo's boat of senior coxswain Britt Marshall, junior Megan Bayley, sophomore Rachel Cuthbert and freshmen Sydney Gilchrist and Sarah Gallagher finished in 7:29.5. The Bulls finished only five seconds behind the first-place Spartans while Gonzaga trailed the pack with a time of 7:46.3.
The afternoon races continued the trend of the day as the Third Varsity Eight race saw the Spartans (6:52.4) cross the finish line ahead of second-place Buffalo (7:00.3) and perennial last place boat, Gonzaga (7:01.9).
Buffalo grabbed its fourth second-place finish of the day in the Second Varsity Four. Michigan State picked up its fourth first-place finish with a time of 7:34.1, while the Bulls finished 21 seconds later, with a time of 7:55.5.
Buffalo's streak of second place finishes snapped in the Varsity Eight Boat race as the Bulls finished in third-place with a time 6:33.1. The Spartans won their fifth race of their flawless day with a time of 6:15.9, while Gonzaga finished in second place with a time of 6:24.2.
"Although our Varsity Eight Boat hasn't won a race this year, I think you can accredit that to their schedule of opponents," Wheeler said. "They're racing against some of the top crews in the country and to post the times that they're posting – while actually finishing ahead of them – is impressive in itself."
On Saturday, the Bulls were back in the water with steady strides again as the team managed to win four out of five races against cross-state rival Syracuse. However, while Buffalo was able to hold its own, they could not top the countries' No. 1 ranked crew, Yale.
The Bulls' Second Varsity Eight Boat shined for the second straight day as they finished the race with a time of 6:48.9, 10 seconds ahead of second-place Syracuse. The Varsity Four Boat raced well again after finishing ahead of the Orange by nearly 16 seconds with a time of 7:32.4. The Bulls' Varsity Eight Boat nearly pulled off a victory in a highly contested race, but lost by three seconds to Syracuse's time of 6:40.6.
The program got its first chance in school history to row against a No. 1 ranked opponent during the afternoon races and showed that they could hang tight with a national powerhouse. The Bulls went stroke for stroke with Yale until the Bulldogs eventually pulled away to win the Varsity Eight Boat race. Buffalo finished just under 10 seconds behind Yale, while the Bulls' Second Varsity Eight Boat lost by nearly 12 seconds.
"What we have is a very young team that is very talented," Wheeler said. "I'm very encouraged by the results of our team. I'm also pleased that our Varsity Eight raced against the best crews in the U.S. and raced well. All of our crews handled themselves well."
After receiving three votes in the latest Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association/USRowing poll, Buffalo hopes that their wins over Gonzaga and Syracuse will get them some more national attention.
"That's what this is all about," Wheeler said. "It's all about becoming nationally ranked and going to the NCAA Championships. I took this program over eight years ago and we were ranked 87th out of 90 teams. We've made great progress and we will continue to make great progress going ahead."
Buffalo will try to continue their hard work in the water next weekend when they travel to Camden, N.J., for the Knetch Cup. Races will run all day on April 10 and 11.