Women’s Crew Novice Boat Takes Second Place at States

On May 7, the Sidwell crew team’s Novice Eight boat placed second at the Virginia Scholastic Rowing Association (VARSA) State competition, qualifying for nationals.

On Memorial Day weekend, the Novice Eight boat team traveled to Camden, New Jersey for nationals. This achievement came after months of hard work and dedication from the whole Sidwell crew team.

Training began during the winter season, but the intensity increased once the official spring season commenced.

During the season, practices ran daily from 5:30 a.m. to 7 a.m. Sidwell did not provide transportation for these early morning practices, so the senior captains implemented a carpool system to help underclassmen get to practice.

Freshman Lia Donley shared that these early-morning carpools foster connections among teammates. Donley and the other athletes recognize team bonding as an essential component of crew, a sport where the winners are determined by a team’s ability to maintain coordination.

The Novice Eight team is composed solely of freshmen.

I can really see our progression since we first stepped into the boat … I really do believe that we have come together as a team.

— Lia Nathan '25

Because freshman Lia Donley and the rest of the Novice Eight boat had no crew experience before this year, winter training was critical to building their strength and allowing them to become familiar with rowing on a machine in preparation for the spring season.

Once the Novice Eight boat began training on the Potomac River, they had to learn the mechanics of proper rowing.

Nathan credits the coaching staff for much of the team’s success: “The coaches really helped build the team strength-and-endurance-wise and as a group through drills on the water which made us more tight-knit and in tune.”

Ted Bristol has served as the team’s head coach since 2007. A former rower at George Washington University with a distinguished career, Bristol began his tenure at Sidwell when his daughter, Hanna, started rowing for the team.

Sadie Coffman ’15 is the team’s assistant coach. Like Bristol, Coffman has crew experience at the collegiate level, having rowed for Middlebury College after graduating from Sidwell.

Bristol and Coffman integrated the freshmen with the two varsity boats. “Usually there were three or four freshmen with other experienced rowers, so we could learn how to row, but the boat could still move, and we could still practice,” Donley explained.

After building a strong foundation from rowing with senior captains and more experienced rowers, the freshmen began to row on their own.

“After spring break, we did our first all-freshman boat, and then we learned more from there,” Donley explained.

To continue fostering development and team bonding, the freshman boat trained with the varsity boats throughout the season — all boats had the same workouts and often raced each other in scrimmages during practice.

Before heading to nationals in Camden, the team had another opportunity to compete in Philadelphia for the Stotesbury Cup Regatta on May 21 and May 22. Freshman Lia Nathan shared how thrilled she was to participate in Stotesbury, calling it “one of the highlights of the season.”

“It [was] a whole team experience, and you get to stay overnight with other people on the team,” she added. She feels that the Stotesbury Cup was special because it gave her and her teammates a chance “to have more quality time with the team outside of just rowing.”

Nathan explained that the Novice Eight’s progression this season has been impressive, culminating in a second-place finish at VARSA.

“In the beginning of the season, the freshman boat had a lot of potential and natural talent and strength, which is a key to success. But we were really separate and unorganized,” Nathan said.

However, the Novice Eight hit their stride in the last week before VARSA.

The team’s progression has not gone unnoticed by teammates. “I can really see our progression since we first stepped into the boat. I am really proud of all of the other freshmen and everyone in general. I really do believe that we have come together as a team,” Nathan concluded.