Season Opener results in big showing for small boats for Loyola Rowing Team

By Daniel Keenan, special to

The Loyola College rowing team opened their racing season Saturday with strong finishes from their smaller boats. Competing in the Murphy Cup Regatta on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, the crew team rowed against big-name schools from around the region.

It was a cold and windy 2000-meter race for all the competitors, some traveling from as far north as Massachusetts and from as far south as central Florida. The Greyhounds, coached by Al Ramirez, Cherith Greenwood and William Farrell, fielded seven boats, four four-person boats and three eight-person boats. Coming off of a long indoor winter training season and ending with a spring break training trip to Georgia, the Greyhounds were looking to start off the season on a high note.

"Our goal for this race was to put everyone in a boat so that we could evaluate how our rowers would react under the strain and stress of racing," Coach Ramirez said.

Initial results looked promising for the team. "We had two of our four fours [four-person boats] advance to the finals," Ramirez said. The Women's Varsity Four "A" boat, rowed by Nikki Yaeger, Kelly McDermott, Meghan Fregeau, Daisy Carter and coxed by Christine Drennan, finished first in their heat with a time of 7:42.36, and finished strong in the Grand Final, finishing fifth overall.

"Although younger women team members in the women's ["B" Four] boat did not advance today, they showed and put together a strong race."

Narrowly missing first place to Fairfield's boat by 1.94 seconds, the Men's Varsity Four's time of 7:02.16 still qualified them for the Grand Final -- rowing against Penn State's "A" and "B", Fairfield and Philadelphia University -- where they finished fifth overall as well. Coxed by Genevieve Dalton, the boat's rowers were Thomas Bellew, Marc Hesse, Majiej Owsianni and Travis O'Niell.

The Men's Novice Four, finishing at and Men's Junior Varsity Eight, consisting of newcomers and rowers recovering from injuries, both displayed strong finishes in their heats, but did not advance.

"Both the JV and Varsity men's eights have not been able to practice completely together for the past ten days or so because of the illness of two rowers and the Easter holiday. But we tested new line-ups."

Rowers in the Men's Varsity Eight matched up against Bucknell, Temple University, the University of Delaware's "A" boat and Penn State in their heat.

"The men rowed fairly, well, but were not able to make up the lead they gave up to Bucknell and Delaware in the first 800 meters -- but they held steady for the rest of the race," said Ramirez said.

With a time of 6:08.61, the Hounds advanced to the Petit Finals in the late evening, finishing fourth overall.

"We put everyone at what we believe to be their appropriate skill level so Cherith and I can prioritize the boat line-ups for the rest of the season." By the end of the day, Coach Ramirez was optimistic. "The men, as a whole, showed a lot of promise. We are going to have to find the right combo for our women's races, and both the JV and Varsity men are still going to need work for our upcoming competitions."

The rowing team will have a chance to improve and build off of this past weekend as Loyola rowers compete in their only home regatta this season on Saturday, April 5, at their boathouse in Baltimore when they compete in the Johns Hopkins Invitational.