Each season, head coach Andy Teitelbaum and his coaching staff makes it perfectly clear as a rower at Ohio State, the expectations are lofty and that is one guarantee the program can and will make with the beginning of each campaign. Out of 86 Division I women’s rowing programs, placing seventh at the 2008 NCAA Championships could be deemed a crowning achievement, but Teitelbaum and company know they are capable of more and it all starts with leadership and maturity.
“I guess if seventh in the country is as bad as it gets for us, that will be quite a career,” Teitelbaum said. “We do have some quality freshmen coming in, but I think it is going to be difficult to solely count on them. The reality is we have 12 athletes who rowed in the first and second varsity eight last year who are going to be back and then three out of the four who were in the varsity four.”
With experience comes maturity and with that growth there will be a good understanding by the 2008-09 squad of just what it takes and means to become the best. As Teitelbaum reiterates to his team, “no matter how much you think you know it, until you’re actually in the boat, you don’t really know.”
Although the Buckeyes had some great success last season, including a runner-up finish by the Second Varsity Eight in the NCAA Grand Final, it was a year of highs and lows for the First Varsity Eight. Not as competitive as it would have liked to be, the returning student-athletes who rowed in the coveted boat throughout the season certainly learned from the experience and no doubt will use the occurrence as momentum for a fresh start.
“I give those athletes who were in that boat a lot of credit,” Teitelbaum said. “It was a difficult plight for them, particularly with other boats succeeding. They could easily have been in those boats, enjoying the success. They handled it with a lot of maturity and really put in a tremendous amount of effort to try and work things out.”
For the Scarlet and Gray, it is always about rowing better than the day before, so it is no surprise Teitelbaum has his eyes on several key returnees to step up their “game” and row better than they did the year before.
Whether or not they rowed in the 1V8 last year, those returning from last season will be looked upon to make the transition from good to great if they want the opportunity to showcase their talents in the top boat. Three years and counting, the senior class of Peta-Leigh Dakyns, Susanne Herbrand and Zuzanna Trzcinska is the epitome of been there and done that.’ As a whole, three of the four seniors have rowed in the NCAA championships and therefore have an appreciation of the highest level of excellence in collegiate rowing.
“Even when you have raced at a high level, whether as a Junior or as an Under-23, until you’re sitting in an eight, surrounded by the best eights in the country, I think it is difficult to understand how close the race is and how fast it is going to happen,” Teitelbaum said.
A YEAR OLDER, A YEAR WISER
In 2007, the Buckeyes were a fairly young team, with several freshmen and sophomores, including Second-Team All-Big Ten recipients Anniken Ellingsen and Cleonice Renzetti, rowing in the top eight, as well as the varsity four. Where leadership may have been a concern for the coaching staff last season, it is not quite as much a worry this upcoming season. The fact is, the freshman class from a year ago has the experience competing among the elite in college.
“I anticipate a higher level of leadership this year,” Teitelbaum said. “Even our sophomores, they have the experience and the capacity to be able to take on the leadership role. I think with Susi Herbrand, Peta Leigh Dakyns and Zuza Trzcinska and a really strong group of juniors in Charlott Goldstein, Katie Flarida, Sara Wallace and Johnna Burns, all athletes who have raced in two NCAA championships already, that leadership is less of a concern for us than it was this past year.”
With the team comprised of a large contingent of underclassmen last year, a year of growth is an important intangible and it gave the likes of sophomores Ingrid Aasaaren, Erika Benford, Kristin DiJosie, Ellingsen, Samantha Getz, Carolin Helmholz, Caroline McPherson and Renzetti that crucial time of first-year reflection. For incoming juniors Burns, Farrah Edwards, Flarida, Tess Prescott, Sara Reardon, Erin Shropshire, Wallace and Claudia Wurzel there still is room for development as the class collectively worked to avoid a sophomore slump.
Like any well-run program, Teitelbaum needs an exceptional supporting cast in order to deliver on planned expectations. That is where assistant coaches Diana “Didi” Albrecht and Bethia Woolf enter the equation.
For Albrecht, the 2008 Central Region Assistant Coach of the Year, it was a memorable season for the second-year coach as she guided the Second Varsity Eight to a runner-up finish in the Grand Final of the 2008 NCAA Championships. That second-place standing is the best finish by the 2V8 at nationals and a tie for the best placing by any boat in program history. Not only was the 2V8’s cap on the postseason a remarkable one, but Albrecht also coached the crew to a Grand Final win in the Central/South Region Sprints and a spotless 10-0 regular-season record.
“With Didi having lived through the program, I think she has a really clear vision of the program,” Teitelbaum said. “Four years as a rower here, she has won championships and competed in Grand Finals of the NCAAs and really sat in almost every seat. So the vision for this team was already there when she stepped onto the coaching staff.”
As the novice coach, Woolf has a good understanding of the kinds of athletes the Buckeye rowing program needs because those same first-year competitors become the critical link to varsity success.
WELCOME TO COLUMBUS
Ohio State will serve as hosts of the 2009 Big Ten Championship at Griggs Reservoir on the Scioto River and although there are definite advantages to hosting a championship, Teitelbaum wants to prepare the team for any possible added anxiety that comes from hosting a postseason regatta in front of a large contingent of family and friends.
“There obviously will be a lot familiarity,” Teitelbaum said. “When you row over a race course all the time, you’re going to know pretty much exactly where you are even though everybody has buoys in the buoy line. That is a really good advantage in terms of handling the anxiety and the stress of the event.
Creating a championship atmosphere will be key for the Buckeyes’ success and with the opportunity to host the conference championship just once every seven years, the Scarlet and Gray hopes to take full advantage of being on its home turf.