With just under a month before its first regatta of the season at the Oak Ridge Invitational in Oak Ridge, Tenn. (March 17-18), the Virginia rowing team's preparation has been a little different than in past years; the 11-time ACC Champion Cavaliers have been doing what their sport is all about, rowing out on the water.
The mixture of above-average temperatures along with the area's first significant snowfall not coming until President's Day Weekend has meant the Cavaliers coaches have adjusted their normal preseason workouts.
"We have been able to get on the water quite a bit, which is rare for this time of year," UVa head coach Kevin Sauer said. "It's nice to be able to do that, while being able to hold on to some good indoor training. The combination has been good and we've been able to do hard work indoors, while still being able to touch the water and start rowing."
The Cavaliers look at the opportunity to get out on the Rivanna Reservoir as a chance to improve on last year's sixth-place finish at the NCAA Championships.
"If you look at last year, all the West Coast teams were able to get out on the water early and they did really well," senior co-captain Martha Kuzzy said. "I think the team is really excited because we're on the water right now and we've never been able to do that this early. But we're keeping a good balance of being inside as well because cardio is important for our sport in general and our team specifically. We really focus on that and the coaches are doing a good job of keeping that in check."
"I think our coaches are doing a good job of having us keep our fitness levels up off the water," said fellow senior co-captain Sarah Borchelt. "They're keeping that a focus while working with this beautiful weather we have. Hopefully, getting in the boats earlier will help us in the long run."
According to the senior co-captains, who were members of the 2010 NCAA Championship team, the team's ability to get on the water is also helping out with the squad's mentality and cohesiveness.
"You can tell on and off the water that everyone's pretty stoked," Borchelt said. "Everybody's really competitive and pushing each other in an excited and motivated way that's feeding a lot of energy into the team."
"We have a lot of first-years that are in the mix, so I think it's really beneficial that we're on the water so we can get everyone on the same page," Kuzzy said. "While there are bunch of us fourth-years who have worked the Virginia style for a while, it's good to give the first-years more time to do it."
Once the Cavaliers scrimmage Michigan State on March 10, they have only one weekend off until after the ACC Championships on April 21 in Clemson, S.C. During that stretch, Virginia will travel to Southern California for the prestigious San Diego Crew Classic (March 31-April 1) and host the UVa Invitational on Lake Monticello on April 14-15, and Sauer believes that the more competitive races there are, the better.
"I have a theory that the kids like to race," Sauer said. "I don't think they do this for the training, so we like to give them racing opportunities. And when you give them an opportunity to race and go down the course, you learn something every time."