Oct. 10, 2008
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -
The Alabama Rowing Team, which gets its third season as a varsity program underway this Saturday at the Chattanooga Head Race, finds itself younger than a year ago but with improving depth.
"The seniors that graduated last spring, because they came out of the club program, brought a lot of experience and leadership to their boats," head coach Larry Davis said. "This year I'd say 50-percent of our varsity roster has two semesters of rowing under their belts going into this season. So we're going to be a pretty young crew."
Davis says that the Tide's top boats will still be fairly experienced as recruited athletes, who rowed with the novices last season, move up into the varsity ranks. He also feels that the Crimson Tide's depth continues to improve going into year three with 10 juniors and six seniors helping provide leadership and experience for the 13 sophomores on the varsity roster.
With that in mind, Saturday will be a learning experience for both the Tide's coaches and athletes.
"At this point we're not sure how they're going to respond when they get into a racing situation," Davis said. "I think we've shown some really good glimmers of what we can do in practice this fall, but it hasn't been consistent. That goes back to our youth. Saturday will give us a better idea of where we are, what we have to work on and where we go from here."
The Chattanooga Head Race's solid mid-sized field will give Alabama a good measuring stick to start the season. Alabama will put up three Varsity 8+ boats, four Varsity 4+ boats and one double in competition Saturday, giving the coaching staff a chance to see the entire varsity roster in action at some point during the day. The Tide's first race, the Women's Collegiate 8+, gets underway at 10:30 a.m. ET.
"This is a regatta that we can do well at, but at the same time we'll be challenged and we'll have a good basis to judge our speed in relation to some pretty good competition," Davis said. "Tennessee will be there, and they have gone to the NCAA (Championships) the last couple of years, so we'll have a very good gauge of where we stand right now. Each year that we've been a varsity program we've gained ground on (Tennessee) and we certainly want to keep that going."
Even with a younger group, Alabama is looking to continue to move forward, getting faster and bringing medals back to Tuscaloosa.
"I would hope that we'll be able to do what we've done the last couple of years, which is pick up some medals," Davis said. "And because we are in some respects stronger than we were a year ago, I think we'll continue to move ahead and pick up ground on the some of the top boats."