In capturing its third consecutive NCAA championship, the Bates women’s rowing team made it look easy, winning all four of their races by open water at Eagle Creek Reservoir in Indianapolis on May 31 and June 1.
“As soon as we’re ahead, I know that nothing can stop us,” says co-captain Sophie Claus ‘19 of Beverly, Mass.
Video by Aaron Morse
The victory is Bates’ fourth in the last five years. But perhaps more than anyone, Claus knows that getting to the top of the mountain isn’t easy.
Last spring, she missed out on the NCAAs with an injured back. Surgery followed in December, then rehabilitation. “It’s been a wild, wild ride,” she says. “To be here is such an enormous privilege.”
It’s also important that minor setbacks don’t spiral into big problems.
Claus is a member of Bates’ second varsity boat. As the preliminary heat got underway on Day 1 of the championship, her foot stretcher — where she places her feet for leverage — suddenly broke.
She alerted coxswain Maya Seshan ’20, who stopped the race, which is allowed when equipment fails within the first 100 meters.
It turned out to be an easy fix, and the Bobcats maintained their composure despite the delay.
“Our team is built on flexibility,” says Seshan, of Wilton, Conn. “Coach [Peter Steenstra] really instills in us this idea that no matter what you’re doing, you’re ready to roll with the punches. If something changes, who cares?”
On Day 2, Bates’s two grand final victories marked the sixth straight for the second varsity eight and the second straight for the first varsity eight.
Among the eight rowers and one cox in the first varsity boat, only one was a senior in 2019: Sophia Rintell of Brookline, Mass.
“I was having some nerves as everyone always does right before the race,” she recalls. “But there came a moment, right as we were waiting to line up to get in the start area, when I realized that I’m not nervous. I’m just excited.”
Both varsity boats won their grand finals without much drama, at least on the surface.
As Claus explains, “This piece of wood had gotten stuck to our skeg and we were like, we had added resistance for no reason!”
For Bates, challenges like having a stick stuck to the bottom of their boat only make the Bobcats stronger.
The two varsity boats had four senior rowers — Claus, Rintell, fellow co-captain Claudia Glickman of Bellaire, Texas., and Phoebe Long of Riverside, Conn. “We feel like we did it. We got the job done,” says Rintell.
“It’s a good way to go out and leave, and feel really excited for all of the others who are going to go do this again.”