Rowing Reflection


Harvard Women’s Crew Approaches Senior Race.


The Radcliffe Heavyweight Crew team is led by a number of seniors who have spent a significant portion of their Harvard years on the Charles. This weekend, the team will compete in their final home race on that very river. To celebrate this occasion, and to reflect on the enormity that this athletic investment truly has been, the Indy sat down with Heidi Nocka ’18. Nocka is a senior studying Human Evolutionary Biology and lives in Winthrop.


CC: What about crew is most memorable to you?

HN: The most memorable parts of rowing at Harvard, with Radcliffe crew, have been some of the toughest parts of this sport. Some athletes argue that the most memorable moments are at the climax of their performance either at a championship race or game. For me the most memorable parts of my experience have been the times when I reflect, thinking, “Wow, I can’t believe we did that!” – throughout our everyday training. I remember rowing freshmen year over spring break in Lowell, Massachusetts, looking at the girl’s braid in front of me. This was the year of the massive snow storm, Nemo. Her braid had frozen, and snow was accumulating on each weave of the braid. I remember taking a snapshot in time thinking, “This is crazy. My coaches are crazy, this sport is crazy, I’m crazy. Why am I here?” However, those moments are balanced by the memorable moments in the fall when the water is completely flat like glass, the sun is just starting to set and we are in the last part of the workout. All of a sudden the lack of daylight makes you switch from using your sight to find the rhythm of the boat to using sound and feeling of the boat’s movements to match the girl in front. All of a sudden you hit this groove: You couldn’t fall out of rhythm even if you tried because everyone is so in sync. All you can think to do is push just a little harder. This combination of moments of complete insanity and harmony is the epitome of this sport, and I have experienced many of them while on Radcliffe. That is why I still row; it’s experiencing the balance of these moments.


CC: Is that what you expected it to be?

HN: I didn’t expect to see the dynamic and personality of the team change so much throughout my Radcliffe career. Every year we lose a quarter of our team, the seniors. And every fall we get roughly 10 new rowers. They all contribute to the team in new, refreshing and unexpected ways. While I still feel a sense of tradition and Radcliffe identity, every year is a new slate because the team evolves as seniors leave and freshman join.


CC: How is the team doing this season in comparison to others?

HN: This year we’ve taken a slightly different approach in our training compared to past years. We have a new lift program that specializes our lift to the rowing motion, versus the old lift where we use to focus on general muscle groups that weren’t necessarily rowing related. While I believe I have gained a lot from this transition in lifting programs, I think the dramatic change in our training plan has helped the team restart. We have struggled in the past two years against other Ivy League teams. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the ranking in the Ivy League has changed a lot in the past two or three years. I think this change in mindset has helped the team look forward to this season and look for ways to be stronger and more efficient than we were in past years. Regardless of where our rankings land, I believe this team will be much faster compared to our team last year because we are coming into the racing season with more intent and purpose. I’m also really excited to see several of our underclassmen and freshmen step up and fill some of our top seniors’ seats. If they can fill these higher spots, it means our team is getting faster despite losing some of our fastest senior rowers.


CC: This seems pretty early in the spring season to have a senior race – what are you doing to prepare for it?

HN:  While this is our only home race, we are just getting started. I think it will be nice to have this senior recognition early in our season to remind us old geezers that our collegiate rowing career is coming to a close and we get this one last chance to give it our all.  Rowing is not like other sports, we don’t have MVPs or positions with hierarchy. We are one cohesive group of girls moving one boat together. If it’s not together, we’re not going to be moving anywhere fast. While I understand senior recognition, this sport requires selflessness and this might wake seniors up to the idea that, nearing finale, we have a lot of work and speed to find in these next few weeks. The senior ceremony will put some urgency in our training, and the seniors can use this urgency to help strengthen and inspire the classes below us. Our goal is always to find more speed. There is always a way to find more speed whether it be technique, physical strength, or attitude. Our job is never done, but we’re in control of achieving as much speed as possible in the time that we’re given. That’s exactly what we’ll do. Wish us luck!


CC: Do your plans after graduation include rowing?

HN: I currently am not planning on rowing. However, I am coordinating with a research group in New Zealand to join them in researching rowing biomechanics at the Auckland University of Technology and with the national rowing team. I hope to work in the area of injury prevention in rowers, as a lot of us experience long-term injury in our ribs and back. I love the sport but it still has room to improve. I can’t think of a better way to transition away from being an athlete to being a part of athletics.


This Saturday the team will be facing down Brown on the Charles.


Caroline Cronin ( congratulates Nocka and the other crew seniors!