Although Ohio has seen more young women rowing in recent years, its in-state opportunities for continuing into college have been limited. The Ohio State University and the University of Dayton are the only Division I varsity programs for women’s rowing in the state, and Marietta College is the only other women’s varsity team in Ohio—until now.
Ohio Wesleyan University, a Division III college north of Columbus, announced in late February that it will add women’s rowing to its sport offerings. The program will operate as a club for the 2017-18 school year before the Battling Bishops crew receives varsity status the following year.
“We have a lot of people who have reached out,” OWU Athletic Director Roger Ingles said. “The first day…the phone was ringing like crazy.”
“It’s going to be something that will be well-received, both by the campus and prospective students. Hopefully it helps the sport to continue to grow.”
Primary among the tasks Ingles is busy with currently is hiring a head coach. Once that person is in place, decisions will be made regarding which equipment to purchase, in which conference to compete, and where to row.
“We’re really surrounded by a lot of different waterways,” Ingles said. “Right now, the Scioto River option is probably a good one for us.”
OWU is the first school in the North Coast Athletic Conference to add women’s rowing. Its Ohio DIII counterpart, Marietta, races in the Mid-Atlantic Rowing Conference, which is a potential option for qualification for the NCAA championships.
By adding women’s rowing, OWU can attract young rowers from places like Cleveland, Columbus, and other smaller rowing hubs that have popped up across the state. Ingles said it also makes the university an attractive option for students from New England, from where the school has traditionally drawn students.
Ingles said Mark Williams, head coach of Ohio State’s club rowing program, was instrumental in helping him understand what he needed to do to launch rowing at the university. He added that all NCAC schools are located within close proximity to a body of water, meaning more collegiate programs may be on the horizon.