Clemson’s Varsity Four wins ACC Title
By William Qualkinbush
CLEMSON — In team sports, the emotional difference between winning and losing often has some polarity. When there is a clear winner and a clear loser, the reactions of the team members are easier to predict and interpret.
But when the Clemson rowing team finished in second place after a back-and-forth struggle with top-seeded Virginia at Saturday’s ACC Championships, one could not help but notice the smiles on the faces of the members of the Varsity 4, who bested the Cavaliers and the Duke Blue Devils en route to a conference title.
“It was an awesome experience because we really went out there with no expectations,” Taylor Hoynacki said. “We took charge right off the line, we were ahead, and we went with it.”
“It was amazing to take off right from the line and be able to take more as the race went on,” Carissa Richardson said. “It felt pretty good.”
The Tigers led the race from the outset, finishing almost nine seconds ahead of second-place Duke with a time of 7:37.9. The race, which began the championships, set the tone for Clemson on its home course.
“We gave everything we had, and it ended up working,” Katie Mosier said. “Every stroke, we were trying to get as far away from the pack as we could.”
“Attitude and feeling are a lot of this,” said Clemson Assistant Coach Melanie Onufrieff, who works with the Varsity 4. “When (the rest of the team) sees their teammates do something that’s really special like that, it gets them a little more fired up.”
Clemson’s first Varsity 4 conference crown since 2009 also served as a culmination for the members of the crew. Other than Richardson, who
is a freshman, the other four members of the team are all seniors. They have spent lots of time in the boat together over the years, which made Saturday’s win even sweeter.
“These are my best friends,” Rebecca Clogston said. “It’s so much fun to be able to row with them.”
“They all know each other,” Onufrieff said. “They come with chemistry because they’ve known each other so long. Chemistry is a big deal.
You definitely have to steer that, but it helps a lot that they’ve all done it and know they can count on each other.”
Instead of basking in an individual boat title, there is a quick turnaround for the Varsity 4 and the rest of the team, as nationally-ranked Michigan and Ohio State loom large on the schedule prior to the NCAA Championships. The confidence drawn from the victory on Saturday is sure to propel the Varsity 4 to put its best foot forward for the remainder of the season.
“The main thing is not to let it get to us too much,” Kenzie DuBrul said. “We did have a great race, but looking ahead, we race three teams
that are up in the top 20. We can use it as a tool to make us faster, but we still have a lot to do next week. Our work is not done.”
On the day when Clemson’s valiant effort came up just short of team glory, the Tigers could still turn to five student-athletes for an example of what a champion looks like.