An Achievement Award and a Creative Solution End Blue Crew’s Record-Setting Year

Tessa Spillane with the Blue crew
December 16, 2016

Wellesley’s crew team ended a record-setting year with Tessa Spillane, head crew coach and PERA associate professor of the practice, receiving a national award and the team finding a creative way to finish an important race.

On December 3, Spillane received the 2016 Ernestine Bayer Award from USRowing. Bayer is known as “the mother of women’s rowing”; the award recognizes outstanding contributions to the sport. Spillane led the Blue varsity crew team to its first NCAA DIII title last May. 

“I am truly honored to have been nominated and selected as the Ernestine Bayer Award winner by USRowing,” said Spillane, who also directs Wellesley’s intramural rowing programs and teaches sailing and canoeing. “Ernestine Bayer was a doer and a champion. I met her as a 19-year-old, and I have her picture in my office, so to have my name affiliated with her is something I never could have imagined.”

“We are extremely proud of Tessa and congratulate her on receiving the Ernestine Bayer Award,” said Bridget Belgiovine, Wellesley’s director of athletics. “Tessa is the consummate teacher-coach. She is deeply committed to educating and training Wellesley’s student-athletes to be their best, and we are thrilled that she is being recognized by her coaching colleagues, both regionally and nationally, for the same commitment and dedication that we see every day.”

The Bayer Award is the second major honor for Spillane this year—she was also named the Division III National Coach of the Year by the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association (CRCA). Wellesley’s assistant crew coaches, Seth Hussey and Hannah Woodruff ’11, were named the CRCA Division III Coaching Staff of the Year.

“The fact that we had this great year isn’t really about me; it’s about what they did. It was really about the team,” said Spillane.

That team spirit is shared by the coaches and athletes, said Spillane, who came to Wellesley in 2005. Since the start of the 2009–10 season, the team has won eight consecutive Seven Sisters Rowing Championships and six NEWMAC Conference titles, and has made seven consecutive appearances at the NCAA Division III Championships, including third-place finishes in 2011, 2012, and 2015.

A can-do attitude helped the team all year, but especially when the Blue faced an unexpected challenge at the Seven Sisters Rowing Championship in Hadley, Mass., in October.

Wellesley had won the first three races of the event and expected to cruise to overall victory. Then, in the fourth race, the Varsity 8 boat hit submerged debris in the Connecticut River that dislodged the rudder, leaving the team unable to steer. 

Knowing they had to finish the race, but not knowing how, the crew followed the instructions of coxswain Sydney Stento ’18, who put her arms into the water to try to create drag. The team managed to get the boat safely across the finish line and to shore.

After all of the other schools had completed the race, Wellesley was still in first place, once again claiming the Seven Sisters championship. 

Find out more about crew and Wellesley Athletics online, and read a recap of the fall season for all the Blue teams.