Summer Can Wait for Women's Sailing

Washington College women's sailors (from left): Eleanor Conroy, Erin McAuliffe, Mildred Conroy, Maggie Smith, Mackenzie Needham, and Blair Towers.
Washington College women's sailors (from left): Eleanor Conroy, Erin McAuliffe, Mildred Conroy, Maggie Smith, Mackenzie Needham, and Blair Towers.

Half-Dozen Sailors Continue Preparation for Women's National Semifinal

CHESTERTOWN, MD -- With Washington College's 229th annual commencement in the books, the school has officially transitioned into summer mode - but don't tell that to the six female members of the sailing team.  Those half-dozen Shorewomen are busy practicing and preparing for the Sperry Top-Sider/Intercollegiate Sailing Association (ICSA) Women's National Semifinal and Championship be held May 30th through June 2nd at the Austin Yacht Club in Austin, TX. 

Leading that group is senior captain Mildred Conroy (Newtown, MA/Tabor Academy) - or, perhaps, that should be rephrased as "recent college graduate" Mildred Conroy. Conroy received her B.A. in History during Sunday's commencement exercises. Understandably, graduating really hasn't sunk in yet for Conroy.

"Graduation was a blip on the radar," said Conroy prior to a Wednesday morning practice. "It was just one day and now I'm coming back out to do what I've been doing all year." 

While Washington has competed in five consecutive ICSA Co-Ed National Semifinals, this year was the first time the team has qualified for women's nationals, an achievement Conroy takes great pride in.

"It's something we've wanted to do throughout my four years. I've been through a lot of changes on the team and I'm really happy that we have a good women's team now - one that will hopefully grow in the future."

Conroy is joined by junior Maggie Smith (Annapolis, MD/Garrison Forest), sophomore Erin McAuliffe (Germantown, MD/Good Counsel) and freshmen Eleanor Conroy (West Dennis, MA/Tabor Academy) - Mildred's younger sister, Mackenzie Needham (Shelter Island, NY/Shelter Island), and Blair Towers (Goochland, VA/St. Anne's-Belfield). The Shorewomen have been practicing twice a day on the Chester River this week, at 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.  

A total of 27 teams qualified for the ICSA Women's National Semifinal or Championship via seven women's conference championship regattas around the country; Washington qualified by finishing seventh at the Middle Atlantic Intercollegiate Sailing Association's (MAISA) Women's Spring Championships.  The top nine of those teams received semifinal byes and advanced directly to the championship, which will sail on June 1st and 2nd.  The remaining 18 teams - the Shorewomen included - will vie for the final nine championship spots during the two-day semifinal on May 30th and 31st.  

The ICSA National Championships (both the team racing and co-ed championships will follow the women's championships in Austin) mark the end of one of college athletics' most grueling seasons.  Intercollegiate sailing holds both a full fall and full spring schedule each year, with sailors on the water from early September to late November and again from late January through the national championships.  Washington College sailors have already raced in 31 regattas over 18 weekends during the 2011-12 academic year. 

PHOTO GALLERY OF TODAY'S MORNING PRACTICE