Tech’s crew team served as the host for the Atlanta Erg Sprints on Saturday, Feb. 6. The day-long competition has become a prominent event for GT Crew, serving as the kick-off of the spring season for Tech’s largest sporting club. This year the Jackets started off the spring on a high note as they took first place in total team points.
The annual competition at the CRC features current rowers from Tech and other Southeastern colleges along with junior teams and GT Crew alumni, who have a large presence at the event.
“This event is…run by the alumni, so we have a bunch of alumni from a lot of past years,” said junior Maya Oren, the team president.
Rather than taking place on a lake, the Erg Sprints have rowers compete using ergometers (ergs), machines designed to simulate rowing. The majority of the events focus on the 2,000-meter races that comprise the majority of the collegiate spring season, with the exception of a few 500-meter sprints and 1,000-meter coxswain races.
“It’s…what you see in the Olympics, when you go all out for 2,000 meters,” Oren said. “[The fall] is more of an endurance season for us. We do a 5,000-meter race called a head race…that is [based on] time. Boats go off with 15 seconds between them, and at the end you see who won. You don’t really know [who’s winning] while you’re racing.”
While intended to simulate the more strength-centered spring season, the Erg Sprints offer a unique challenge in that each rower is on his or her own, a notable change in a sport that relies greatly on teamwork. Few events during the formal competition season involve individual rowers in lieu of multi-person crews.
The Erg Sprints, though, put individuals in the spotlight, and Tech’s rowers on both the men’s and women’s sides had a strong showing at the event against rowers from schools such as Georgia, Auburn and Emory, which won last year’s Erg Sprints points title.
Events for junior and masters clubs and Tech alumni occupied the morning events, but after the halfway mark the college teams were the focus of the competition. The collegiate competition began with the novice rowers from each school, which pitted the newest members of each team against each other.
“Every year we have a new novice class,” Oren said. “It’s mostly first-years, [but] sometimes we get people who have done other sports and are ready for something new, who are sophomores or juniors.”
Tech’s novice classes had a strong showing in the 2,000-meter event. On the men’s side, freshman Seth Parker set a record for the novice event with a time of 6:22.0. Tech senior Chris Depweg came in second, and freshman Ben Craig gave the Jackets a third rower in the top five for the event. The women’s team had two top-five finishers and five in the top ten; sophomore Betsy McLaughlin led the Jackets, finishing second with a time of 7:46.2.
The women led the way in the lightweight division, with eight rowers in the top ten for the event. Senior Amie Martell took first, edging the second-place finisher by half a second as she finished in 7:50.0. Sophomore Sean Gibel won the lightweight men’s event with a time of 6:29.9, and he was one of five Jackets in the top 10.
“Generally, at least the men’s side has been a lightweight program, [but] this year…we’re racing mostly heavyweight on that side. The women still favor the lightweights right now.”
Juniors Samantha Smelley and Meg Schroeder finished in the top five of the open women’s event. On the men’s side of the event, three Jackets placed in the top 10, led by David Judah in fourth place.
In the coxswain events, Savannah Cookson was one of three Jackets to finish in the top six on the women’s side, and Matthew Giannelli took first place in the men’s event as four Jackets finished in the top five.
Overall, Tech took the team points title in a strong performance as the Jackets transition from the endurance-based fall season to the more strength-based spring season.
While Georgia and Emory appear on the spring schedule, Tech’s goal remains the same as ever: to reach and perform well at the Dad Vail Regatta, the early May intercollegiate competition in Philadelphia that is the de facto championship event for the Jackets.
“If you win at Dad Vails you’ve made it. We pretty much train all season for that,” Oren said.
The team lives by the motto established by Head Coach Rob Canavan: “Plan to Win, Prepare to Win, Expect to Win.”
“That’s his motto for pretty much everything in life,” Oren said. “But that’s what we do; if we plan and we prepare, then we expect [to win].”