GREENE — The Bates College rowing program’s depth was on display Sunday at the Bates Invitational on the Androscoggin River.

The Bobcats won all seven 2,000-meter races of the regatta, which included Bates, Middlebury College, the University of New Hampshire, and, for the three varsity four races, the University of Maine at Orono.

“It was a good day of racing,” Bates coach Peter Steenstra said.

The Bates women, who are the defending NCAA Division III national champions, claimed first and second place in the two varsity eight races.

One of the closest races of the day was between the Bobcats’ two boats in the first varsity eight women’s race. Bates A boat (6:51.41) defeated the Bates B boat (7:00.88) by 9.47 seconds.

“Every day is competitive with them,” Laura Rand, the stroke of the first varsity eight, said. “We have kind of prided ourselves on the 2V; they’ve done really well over the past few years and they’re basically a competitive 1V, which you can see today, they beat other 1Vs from different schools.”

The first eight led from the start, and slowly added to its lead before pulling away in the last half of the race.

“At the 1,000-meter mark is really when you throw down the hammer, you get going,” Rand said, “and that’s when our boat moved away from them a little bit more.

“They gave us a close race. I think we were all kind of surprised to see that they were close.”

At a typical regatta, the B boat would be Bates’ entry in the second varsity eight race, but the Bobcats have enough rowers for four women’s eight boats, and they were able to enter them all in Sunday’s regatta.

“I think (it) is kind of the nature of Bates: the speed runs deep,” Rand said. “We have four solid eights, and then some extra people. It’s just incredible that we can put that many people on the water.”

In the women’s second varsity eight race, Bates A won with a time of 7:12.03. Bates B, which is the Bobcats fourth varsity eight, beat out New Hampshire by less than two seconds to earn second.

“That was a really good race,” Steenstra said. “I’m excited for the women in that fourth boat. They’re here practicing and they’re getting beat up every day by the other three varsity eights that make up the women’s team, and for them to have a really good, tight race … it was exciting for them.”

The Bates women also won the varsity four race, finishing in 8:33.22, more than 14 seconds ahead of second-place New Hampshire.

The Bates men matched the women’s domination.

In the varsity four, the Bobcats (7:15.93) defeated UMaine (7:24.61) in the closest race of the day, winning by 8.68 seconds. Bates’ second varsity four (7:19.08) won by more than 41 seconds.

In the marquee men’s event, the Bobcats (6:06.01) won by 20-plus seconds over Middlebury (6:26.35).

“I think there’s a tendency when you get ahead, if you’re not really focused as a crew, you can sort of relax and get complacent,” Dan Sparks, the five-seat in the Bates varsity eight, said. “And, a lot of times, crews can take advantage of that and spook you and come back through, and we didn’t let that happen. We kept (going). It was a good fight.”

The Bates men’s second varsity eight (6:10.83) crossed the finish line nearly 40 seconds ahead of Middlebury.

About to get real

Sunday’s regatta was the Bates teams’ final warm-up before the postseason, which begins Saturday with the New England championships in Worcester, Massachusetts.

The following week, the Bates men and women return to Worcester for the National Invitational Rowing Championships.

If the women do well enough there, as they usually do, they will return to the Division III national championships in Sarasota, Florida, on May 25-26. The Bobcats have competed in the national championships every year since Steenstra was hired as head coach in 2009.

The women claimed their third national title in three years last year by placing second in the varsity eight grand final and first in the second eight final.

Rand, a senior, said that all but one rower and the coxswain return from last year’s first eight boat, and this year, the first eight have their sights set on first place at nationals. Of course, winning first overall again, as they did in 2015 and 2017, is the main goal, but the second eight has taken first before, and the first eight wants to do likewise this year.

“We’re just getting ready to maybe try to get that national title for the first time in the 1V,” Rand said. “That is how we want to go out.”

The Bates men are hoping to do well enough at the NIRC to earn a coveted spot at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) National Championship at Mercer Lake, New Jersey, the first weekend in June.

“We’re really trying to beat teams like Hobart and Marist, some pretty quick DI crews that we’ll be facing at NIRC in two weeks,” Sparks said. “So we’ve been really tackling every race, even when we’re not necessarily side-by-side with a boat, as if we’re racing those much faster crews.”

Experienced crew

Steenstra said the culture of Bates’ boathouse is strong on both sides, women and men, this season. That’s helped by a large senior class of 21 athletes, who have a presence in every boat.

“They’re really invested. They’ve been in it for four years,” Steenstra said. “And we have seniors in every single boat … so you can see that investment in every single one of the boats.

“When you have a senior in there, it kind of brings — it’s not even just maturity, it’s bringing that competitiveness, it’s bringing that silent edge, that is, ‘We’re out here, we finally get on the water, lets make this boat go really well. And we do it because we like to go fast, not just because we want to win races.’”

The Bates College men’s varsity eight rowing team competes during the Bates Invitational on the Androscoggin River in Greene on Sunday morning. The men’s team won the varsity eight race while competing against Middlebury and the University of New Hampshire. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Bates College rowing coach Peter Steenstra communicates with teams prior to the start of the women’s second varsity four race during the Bates Invitational on the Androscoggin River in Greene on Sunday morning. Steenstra and the University of New Hampshire coach, Mackenzie Dowdy, right, helped officiate the race. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

The Bates College women’s varsity eight rowing team, second from left, pulls out in front during the Bates Invitational on the Androscoggin River in Greene on Sunday morning. The women’s “A” team won the varsity eight race while competing against the Bates College “B” team, far left, Middlebury and the University of New Hampshire. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

The Middlebury women’s varsity eight rowing team walks their racing shell along the dock following their race during the Bates Invitational on the Androscoggin River in Greene on Sunday morning. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Shoes pile up on the dock as teams of college students compete during the Bates Invitational on the Androscoggin River in Greene on Sunday morning. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

The Middlebury women’s varsity eight rowing team competes during the Bates Invitational on the Androscoggin River in Greene on Sunday morning. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)


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