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Cyclone Spotlight: Novice Crew Team

This week’s spotlight is unique in that we are recognizing nine people! They were all in the Novice 8+ boat that came in 8th out of 15 at the Head of the American regatta last Saturday, Oct. 27 at Lake Natoma, CA.

Mills races at the Head of the American every year. It is the largest fall regatta on the west coast with crew teams from Seattle to San Diego competing. There were 538 entries total, representing 60 college/club teams. The seven boats who finished ahead of Mills were all Division I. Mills was the only Division III school participating in the regatta.

The race takes place on Lake Natoma, which is a state waterway near Sacramento. The race distance is 5000 meters (approximately three miles) with a winding course and staggered start, where the rowers race for best times.

This is the best result for a Mills novice boat at this regatta in many years. They came in ahead of bigger schools such as Cal State Long Beach, Sonoma State and Cal Lightweights. The Novice team was only 18 seconds behind Saint Mary’s and 28 seconds behind Sac State, both of which are Division I schools.

“The Novice team as a whole is attentive and focused and that attitude led to this result,” said Head Rowing Coach Sara Nevin. “Our large, dynamic Novice group all contributed to this boat doing well – everyone doing their best helped this boat finish where they did.”

The line-up from coxswain to bow was Emma Johnson, Halo Howell, Tess Filbeck-Bates, Claudia Peck, Mel Holmes, Bridgette Blakesley, Sonya Kohli, Anna Pangilinan and Brighid Wilhite.

Members of the Novice Crew Team and the Cyclones of the Week from left to right: Brighid Wilhite, Anna Pangilinan, Claudia Peck, Bridgette Blakesley, Sonya Kohli, Mel Holmes,Tess Filbeck-Bates, Halo Howell, Emma Johnson

Sonya Kohli
Age: 18
Year: First year
Major interest: Biochemistry and Art History

“I wanted to try a sport in college and rowing seemed like the best fit for me. I have absolutely loved being on the team so far. Everyone is so welcoming and friendly. Fall season was amazing and I cannot wait for Sping season to start! My favorite moment from the regatta was definitely just the feel of racing; just going against other boats and even passing some!”

Brighid Wilhite
Age: 18
Year: Freshman
Major interest: English, Art and Computer Science

“When I visited Mills as a prospective student, I went to one of their practices and decided that I was going to come to Mills and row. Everyone is so hardworking and positive, it’s really fun to be around people who have so much drive. It’s been a learning experience for me because I’ve never done a team sport, so instead of only depending on myself, I have to be there for everyone else and know that everyone will be there for the rest of us as well. My favorite part of the regatta was feeling the intensity that came from everyone buckling down and forgetting about anything that might affect our row. I sat in bow seat, so I could see everyone really focus when the race started.”

Mel Holmes
Age: 31
Year: Junior
Major interest: Anthropology and Sociology Major with plans to enter the Post-bac Pre-Med program

“Fitness is really important to me and I was looking for a better way to stay active while in school. I’ve struggled with this in the past, so when I got the email from Coach Sara Nevin, I decided that this would be a great way to stay fit, have fun and create friendships among the Mills community. Being on Crew has been really fun. I’ve gotten to know people I may have otherwise never talked to and I really appreciate these connections. My strength and fitness have improved and my self-esteem and confidence have been bolstered in many aspects of my life. I think Crew is going to help me be a more successful Mills student. The regatta was really fun; I was really inspired by how well the team came together. We are a large group and we were all present and focused on what needed to get done. Everyone was helpful and supportive and super encouraging! So there wasn’t really one favorite moment because the whole day was pretty amazing. Although, being in the boat, the feeling of unity and power that was exuding from all of my teammates as we all put everything we had into going fast and powered down the course, gliding throw the water… well that was pretty amazing!”

Anna Pangilinan
Age: 18
Year: First year
Major interest: Women Gender and Sexuality with plans to enter the 4+1 Teacher Education Program

“I joined Crew this year because I wanted to push myself to see what my body was capable of doing and because I wanted to meet a bunch of awesome, athletic Mills women. So far, I’ve loved being on the Rowing Team. I’ve met so many awesome people and I can’t wait to see what Spring Season has in store for the team and me.”

“Without a doubt, the best moment from the regatta was crossing the finish line. Our boat was going full pressure to kill the last 500 meters and when we stopped rowing, no one could breathe, which reassured me that we had all pushed as hard as we could and didn’t give up. My body was just coursing with adrenaline and I knew that we had done an excellent job. I love everyone in my boat and I know that none of us would have made it through without that unwavering support that can only come from Mills Crew.”

Claudia Peck
Age: 18
Year: First year
Major interest: Biopsychology and Studio Art

“I really wanted to stay involved in athletics after high school, but I wanted to do something I had never tried before, so I joined the Crew Team. I really love being on the Crew Team! It’s been a really awesome experience so far this season. I’ve met so many great people, stayed in shape and, surprisingly, being on the Crew Team keeps me well-balanced with my school work. There’s also just something so amazing about being out on the water in the morning when it’s calm and beautiful. My favorite moment from the regatta was finishing the Novice 8+ race. We were all so excited for the race and we pushed ourselves the hardest we had all season. It was a great feeling to see how our hard actually work paid off.”

Tess Filbeck-Bates
Age: 18
Year: First year
Major interest: Music and Pre-Med student

“The race was intense. It was so powerful to rise above the challenges and have connection as a team.”

Halo Howell
Age: 18
Year: First year
Major interest: Intermedia Arts

“I honestly just got up at 5 a.m. for the first practice to try it out and was caught completely off guard by how much I enjoyed it. It was so uncharacteristic of me to be into Crew because of the early mornings and perpetual lack of sleep (I fail at going to sleep early), but Crew helped me forge 41 connections to Mills students that I didn’t have until I joined. That’s 41 people you can instantly identify and maybe wave or say hi to when you passed them on campus. As a freshman, this is incredibly nice to have especially because most of my teammates are people I don’t have classes with.”

“My favorite regatta moment was right after the Novice 8 I rowed in finished the race and put the Jan Holmgren back in the slings, we stood by the boat and wooped and laughed and chatted energetically because the high from the race was so good. In that moment, I felt closer to my teammates than I had at any point during the season.”