More from Oregon State

The river at Oregon State flows very quickly. There’s forest on both sides and just upstream from their boathouse is downtown Corvallis; downstream takes you away from town. It’s very quiet and very pretty this time of year.

More about our workout.

We went into this session with no delusions of grandeur. We are a Division III team with aspirations of national-level ranking. Currently I’d put us somewhere in the 15-20th-ranked DIII group. The Oregon State women are top-20 ranked in Division I, the men top-15. They far outgun us in terms of their training, recruiting, and available talent.

So why race? Primarily because it’s of huge value to put yourself up against faster crews. It’s important to do so in context, however, and offer ourselves the opportunity for improvement. Had this been a ‘regular’ head race (say, 5k upriver against the clock) we wouldn’t have had very much to gain. Since it was a workout– 12 x 3′ pieces for the women, 5 x 6′ for the men– we had ample opportunities to test ourselves against faster competition and see if we could improve our own performance to match.

The woman’s 8 was a great example of this. We were spectacularly outgunned, and in the first set of 4 x 3′ finished behind by many lengths. The next two sets were slightly higher rates (better for us, being smaller) and the coaches also went to greater lengths to keep the workout close. I could see an excellent response from our athletes as Oregon State worked through us– each time it took them longer to pass. They still passed us, but our athletes experienced a lot of growth in making it more challenging each time.

Our men’s four had a similar day. They lined up for a series of 1-1.2 kilometer pieces, upriver. Timewise, they ran about six minutes. The men have been in small boats for the most part, and mostly doing technical work and steady state. This was a wake-up call of the first order, and we were dropped rather quickly on the first few pieces. Our guys kept on the fight and reduced the time gap on each piece. By the end, we had taken a 20-second gap down to under 10 seconds. Again, still a loss, but major learning and improvement for us.

Workouts like Saturday’s provide a lot of confidence and motivation when the chips are down against crews more similarly our speed. The push for us is to move ourselves closer to Oregon State speed– and we’ve actually beaten some of their boats in the past (admittedly, our men’s varsity 8 beat their freshman 8, but we’ll take it!). We may not get top-20 Division I speed this year, but if striving for that level lets us get top-10 Division III speed, that’s an improvement.

Challenge, as always, is the core of improvement.

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