The Murray State Rowing Club returned to the water Saturday to compete in the 27th annual John Hunter Regatta in Gainesville, Ga., racing in six events.
The regatta was categorized by men’s or women’s teams, novice or varsity rowers and by boats of either four or eight passengers.
The team returned with two medals, with the women’s novice eight placing first in their flight and the men’s novice eight placing third.
Competing against notable schools like Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech, Duke and the University of Georgia, Murray State still managed honorable mentions.
“It’s such an amazing experience,” said sophomore rower Danielle Eichelberger. “We definitely have some strong competition, especially with D1 schools, but we feel that we represent Murray State well. We like to go out there and play with the big kids.”
The varsity men’s team placed fourth, missing a third place finish by seconds. The women’s varsity four team sailed past Louisiana State, Georgia Tech and Liberty in the first heat.
The regatta marked the first 2K race of the season for Murray State. In the fall, the team focuses on long-distance racing.
In the spring, sprints are the primary focus and rowers practice weekly on high speed stars, lining up with floating starting blocks and formulating effective race plans.
Coming back from the first regatta of the season, Eichelberger said the team is looking to incorporate new training methods to better prepare better for competition in the future.
“Our boats have a ways to go before the club nationals,” she said. “We’re working on strength training and will be incorporating Crossfit exercises soon to build some more muscle and add more speed. She said attending the regattas with bigger schools not only gives Murray State a taste of the competitive experience, but it also gives more national recognition to the team.
“I had a few people come up to me and ask me where we were located,” Head Coach Colin Neeley said. “But it’s nice to know that our team doesn’t get distracted by the big schools with big names. We can compete with schools like that.”
With two more regattas before the national tournament, Neeley said the John Hunter regatta was more of a learning experience for novice rowers and even varsity rowers so they can get acclimated to more serious racing.
“I told them that I just wanted to see a solid race,” Neeley said. “And they did exactly that. We held our own and people are starting to recognize us and saw that we did good. We didn’t blow them out of the water, but we did pretty good in the long run.”
Despite their status as a club, the rowing team is looking to eventually be recognized as an NCAA sport at Murray State.
Neeley said funding was the primary concern in the way of the club advancing to collegiate sport status.
“Our women’s team could certainly one day be recognized by the NCAA,” he said. “The team is paying for it themselves. They really want to be here, and I think it even drives them to compete a little more. It’s out of their pockets.”
Story by Carly Besser, Assistant Sports Editor.