By Katrina Craycroft
Team boats are the heavy metal of competitive rowing. Eights and Fours, like the musical genre, are fast, powerful and complex, and that is why they were selected for collegiate competition. At last weekend’s Texas Rowing Championships, Dallas United Crew (DUC), true to its mission, focused on Eights and Fours races, earning gold or silver in six events for a combined 72 medals awarded.
First up, gold for DUC’s Women’s Four, led by seniors Ellie Rodriguez, Abby Fowler and Alaina Ruggiero. Rodriguez will join 2021 NCAA Division I National Champions, the University of Texas, in the fall, and Fowler will join the Mustangs of Southern Methodist University, now ranked 13th in the College Rowing Coaches Association poll.
Ruggiero will row at Monmouth University, a new NCAA Division I program. DUC’s First Eight took silver behind Austin’s Texas Rowing Center, and DUC’s Under-seventeen (U17) women earned another silver behind White Rock Rowing (WRR).
In the Men’s Varsity Eights, DUC took gold in every event. Regatta host WRR was the only other club competing. Finishing just seconds apart, the cross-lake rivals thrilled spectators as the crews sprinted for the lead.
In the First Eights race, WRR took a lead early, but DUC was unrelenting, moving continually on WRR and overtaking them in the final five hundred meters. DUC went on to win the race by open water. With five sophomores in the boat, seniors Archer Smith, Sam Tharp, Peyton Lewis and Caroline Craycroft led a crew that foreshadows more DUC titles in the years to come.
Tharp is recruited to Columbia University Men’s Lightweight Varsity crew and Lewis to Saint Joseph University Men’s Varsity crew.
The Men’s Second Varsity Eights contest was particularly close. WRR held half a length’s lead through the first fifteen hundred meters, but in the final one hundred meters, DUC pushed from behind to best WRR in the final strokes of the race. Then, DUC’s Mens (U17) Eight edged out WRR by four seats over the last 250 meters.
Northerly, gusting winds made for fast times on the course, and sustained surface chop challenged the set and sync of the boats. Despite these conditions, DUC’s Under-fifteen (U15) Women’s and Men’s Quadruple crews took gold in this first-ever event. “It makes my heart sing,” U15 Coach Cherie Farmer said.
Such closely contested races beckon fans to USRowing’s Central Region Championship on May 7 and 8 in Oklahoma City, Okla., a qualifier for USRowing’s Youth National Championship. There, DUC and WRR will face Jesuit Crew, winner of the Men’s Varsity Eight regional titles since 2017.
“At Dallas United, we believe rowing teaches athletes more about life on the water than they will ever learn off the water and holds the keys to opportunity,” reflects DUC head coach and program director Steve Perry.
“Hosting this regatta in Dallas enlightens our neighbors about this unique option in youth athletics. We thank White Rock Rowing for hosting and commend USRowing for sanctioning the Texas State Championships this year.”