CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.--The reigning national champion Virginia rowing team began preparations for its 2013 season with a week of training in Deland, Fla. Jan. 4-12. For the past eight years, the Cavaliers traveled to the Lake Beresford resort, where the team gets to work on the water twice a day.
"Overall, it was a good week," head coach Kevin Sauer said. "We worked on some technique and also how to pull hard after the break. By the end of the week, we boated up to let them know where they stood. It's not a first varsity eight and a second varsity eight by any stretch, but now they know where they currently stand and where they can improve."
"It was a very successful training trip overall and we definitely started our winter season off on the right note," senior co-captain Betsy Nilan said. "We know what we had to accomplish on the water. It was also good to see everyone come back from break fired up for our spring racing."
As in past years, the Cavaliers had a similar schedule each day of the trip. They met at the St. John's River at 7 a.m., warmed up with a five or six minute run, followed by a core-strengthening circuit and then grabbed the boats, getting on the water for about two-and-a-half hours.
After a break for food and a nap for most, if not the whole team, the group met up at 2:30, for either a longer run (30 minutes) or a body circuit, which the team affectionately calls a "Brett Circuit" after assistant coach Brett Sickler, the mastermind behind the drills.
"We put a lot of core (exercises) on them because I think it is a key area for injury prevention as well as improving fitness and strength," Sickler said. "With these kinds of body circuits, its easy for athletes to kind of float through them and not get the most our of the set, so we are sticklers for technique and demonstrate that even if it's the most simple of exercises, they can get a lot out of it. We also try and make it fun. We play music and there's always laughter and joking around."
After the circuit, the Cavaliers went back on the water for about an hour and a half, with this session usually a little lighter load with more of an emphasis on technique than the harder, tougher morning practice.
"We usually work them pretty hard in the morning, so the afternoon practice is more recovery and focus on doing things correctly," Sauer said.
After practice, the squad jumped on the bus for a short trip over to the Stetson University dining hall and an all-you-can-eat meal before heading back to resort and getting a good night's rest.
"Since it's been almost two months off the water, to have a week of two-a-days without the stress of classes, it almost equals three weeks of practice in Charlottesville," Sauer said. "What we can accomplish in that week is invaluable."
As is tradition, one day during the week, the coaches award the student-athletes' hard work with a relaxing afternoon off, where the team hops on the bus to take the trek over to Daytona Beach for a few hours of fun in the sun.
"We were so excited to get an afternoon off," Nilan said. "The bus ride to Daytona Beach was all smiles. Most people went to the beach or a movie. I was able to do both and had buffalo wings for dinner. It could not have been better!"
With the team back in Charlottesville and temperatures 30 degrees, UVa is back inside hard at work until it is warm enough to get on the water and prepare for the spring season.
"Now that we are mostly training indoors in Charlottesville, all we can do is take away the work we did in Florida and move forward," Nilan said. "I am definitely anxious to start racing again and be on the water full-time."
The Cavaliers face Michigan State in a scrimmage on March 9 in Claytor Lake, Va., before competing in the Oak Ridge Cardinal Invitational in Oak Ridge, Tenn., March 16-17.