The Lehigh women's rowing team on the water during practice. The Mountain Hawks will compete in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, in the Knecht Cup on April 13, 2024. (Courtesy Lehigh Sports)

Women’s rowing looks to build on spring opener


After a strong performance in the spring opener, the Lehigh women’s rowing team is beginning its season with high expectations after welcoming a large walk-on class. 

The Mountain Hawks hosted Loyola (Md.), Iona University and Fairfield University at nearby Lake Nockamixon and secured six wins in the seven races the team competed in.

In the one race they didn’t win, the team notched a second-place finish. 

Despite being early into the spring season, junior captain Catherine Hilow said expectations are always the same. 

“Lehigh rowing’s goal always is to win a medal at Patriot Leagues,” Hilow said. “I think it’s just a matter of whether we are putting a complete effort into every workout, practice and race.” 

With a large walk-on group on the roster, Hilow said she believes they have brought a new energy that will pay off during races.

One of those walk-ons is first-year Meghan Hastings, who said she and her teammates have done an immense amount of self-motivated work throughout the winter. 

“We have been on a really great, intense track coming out of the winter season this year and are super excited to race,” Hastings said. “I think there will be a ton of growth throughout the season to create some real speed.”

Hilow emphasized the importance winter training has had on the team this year, adding that the completion rate of at-home workouts was higher than ever before. 

The team has been practicing on the water since February, which is a quick turnaround from indoor workouts to in-the-boat racing season. 

Hastings and Hillow said each season has a different training regimen. The fall season is focused on technique, the winter season is about strength and cardio and the spring season transitions quickly into high-speed, high-intensity workouts. 

This year, the team has an increased drive to prove itself after finishing eighth place in last year’s Patriot League Championship. 

To bounce back from last year’s result, sophomore coxswain Ava Albano has set big goals for her team, including that every boat makes it to the finals of the Patriot League Championship.

“Last year was a transition year between coaches, it was a year to bring in more athletes and the coaches getting used to who and what we have on our team,” Albano said. “A lot of the lineups are very different this year from last year, so everyone’s getting used to where they are and how they can contribute to a faster boat.” 

Albano said the team’s motto, “Fly Hawks,” unifies the team under one universal mindset.

“People bring the healthy competition and we get really into it as coxswains because we want our boats to win and we make it obvious, but right when those pieces are done we all make this call ‘Fly Hawks,’” Albano said. “It’s kind of like, ‘OK, the competition is over for the day and we can all get off the water as one cohesive unit.’” 

Hilow said that the new motto not only increases the cohesiveness of the team, but she also finds it individually motivating as well.

“We say that at the end of racing and I think that carries with us through school and our personal lives. Everything is surrounded by that one slogan,” Hilow said. “I think the meaning behind ‘Fly Hawks’ is why people keep going.”

If there’s one race the team looks forward to competing in, fifth-year coxswain Eirinn Sikes said it’s the team’s May 5 meet against Bucknell, who finished third in the Patriot League Championships last season.

“We raced them in the fall and did very well, but obviously, it’s a new season and a different type of racing and different lineups,” Sikes said. “We’re hoping to carry what we had in the fall through the spring and hopefully be even faster than we were in the fall. “The Mountain Hawks will next race in the Knecht Cup in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, on April 13-14.

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