Women’s Freshmen Four Grab Gold at Dad Vail


The women’s freshmen four blew away the competition over the final 500 meters. (Courtesy of Fordham Sports)

After a long, grueling spring rowing season, the women’s freshmen four managed an incredible feat: They took home the gold medal at the Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta. Dad Vail is the largest regular intercollegiate rowing event in the United States, and this particular gold was won in no conventional fashion.

On the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, PA, the team consisting of Ashleigh Aitchison, Tecla Di Francesco, Alixandre Azizi, Nicole Arrato and coxswain Rachel Sortino, all Fordham College at Rose Hill  (FCRH) ’15, gathered to race, fresh off of a radical shift in their routine.

“Just a week before the Dad Vail, Head Coach Ted Bonanno announced that the traditional varsity eight boat would be broken up, putting the team’s priorities upon fours instead,” Arrato said. “We had three days of rowing in this lineup before the biggest regatta of the year.”

When asked just what the gold medal meant to her and her teammates, Arrato seemed triumphant. “It proves that a year of hard work, waking up for 6 a.m. practices six days a week, listening to the wisdom of our coaches and perseverance both on and off the water can go a long way,” Arrato said.

A long way it went, indeed. After posting the top times in both the first heats and the semifinals, the team put forth its best effort in sprinting the last 500 meters of the final, finishing more than a boat-length ahead of their closest competitors.

“It was an awesome and thrilling experience coming down the Schuylkill River knowing we were in contention for the gold medal,” said New Zealand-native Aitchison.

“As our combination had only been put together the week prior, we had all thought we would be lucky to get a spot on the podium. When we crossed the finish line, we were all giddy with excitement, sending high-fives up and down the boat. I don’t think any of us could stop smiling that day.”

It’s almost funny now to hear that this team would be “lucky” to grab a medal, but perhaps it is exactly that attitude that propelled the team to win by a margin of more than four seconds. The hundreds of Olympic races won by tenths-of-a-second shed some perspective on just how dominant of a victory these women achieved. At the end of the day, though, they knew this was a total team effort, and credit was given where credit was due.

“The girls and I are deeply appreciative for the support of our parents, coaches and the Fordham Athletic department gave us throughout the year,” Aitchison said. “This could not have been possible without them.”

Given the height of the accomplishment, the size of the stage and the youth of the team, there is much promise that the Fordham community can continue to celebrate victories like these in seasons to come.