By: John Kaywood
The Sacred Heart University’s women’s rowing team is winding down its calendar season, finishing off with two home regattas for this spring semester.
Seniors Anna Sufczynski, Jennifer Hagedorn, and Sara Totura are leading the Pioneers into this home stretch while reflecting on their careers and the accomplishments they’ve had during their time at Sacred Heart.
“With each incoming class we grow stronger, each girl brings something new to the team,” said Totura. “Our coaches really push us to work harder every day and try to get us to meet each goal whether it’s small or big, which helps us keep focus.”
Hagedorn, who transferred from the University of Toledo, had a much different path to Sacred Heart than most of her teammates.
Growing up in Ohio, where rowing was not priority, she has had to overcome many obstacles. Hagedorn did not have an easy journey to becoming a college rower.
“My high school coach told me that if I were to row collegiately it would only be club and maybe I’d have a shot on a Division III team. He just thought I didn’t have it in me,” said Hagedorn. “At my first 2K rowing test here I beat my personal record and from there Coach Mantescu has had me working my hardest everyday”
Anna Sufczynski, who’s been on the team for four years can attest to the progress that has been seen in both the girls rowing abilities, and coaching style as well.
“Thinking back to our freshman year workouts, the intensity and length of them definitely far passed what we could’ve done,” said Sufczynski. “Some of our warm-ups now are the same lengths as some of the workouts when I first joined the team.”
Nicoleta Mantescu, who’s entering her sixth season as the women’s rowing team coach, has relied on the veteran leadership from Sufczynski, Totura and Hagedorn and the valued asset of experience they bring to the table.
“They have grown so much over the past four years that now they can be the role models,” said Mantescu. “Younger girls are seeing their work ethic and motivation. They are the first girls in and the last girls out, that has been vital.”
The team is looking forward to their last four regattas prior to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championships (MAAC). Two of which will be at their home course in Shelton, Conn. at Beacon Point Marina.
Despite being a home race, there is no home field advantage, unlike many other sports.
“With rowing, you really never know what you’re going to get, when it comes to the water and weather conditions,” said Sufczynski. “We know our course better which is helpful, but weather really plays the main role in almost all race.”
Rain or shine, Saturday, April 21 will be a special regatta. The SHU Invitational will feature their in-state rival Fairfield University. It is also their Senior Day, which is sure to provide a mix of emotion and intensity.
“Senior Day will probably be pretty sad. I know I’ll probably get upset, just because of all the memories and experiences the past four years,” said Sufczynski.
It’s not all tears though; the team will be celebrating with a craft beer night right after the SHU Invitational. Students that are of age can buy tickets to help support the team.