DURHAM, N.C. – Big changes are on the way for Duke rowing. The program, which head coach Robyn Horner started from scratch 15 years ago, has begun construction on a new boathouse at Lake Michie in Bahama, N.C., and will increase the number of scholarships available to the maximum limit allowed by the NCAA over the next several years.
The Duke rowing program began in 1999 under the guidance of Horner, who, during her 15 years at Duke, has turned the fledgling program into an annual top-three finisher at the ACC Championship. In 2013, the Horner-led Blue Devils reached another rung in their ascent to top of the collegiate rowing ranks by cracking the CRCA/US Rowing Top 20 National Poll. Now with drastic improvements on the way, Duke is in line to ascend to the next level on the national rowing scene.
“The commitment from Duke to elevate our program is really exciting,” Horner said. “When you consider the addition of scholarships and the construction of a new boathouse, this really creates a positive environment for our student-athletes and gives us a tremendous competitive advantage. This is the beginning of the next step for DWR.”
The former Duke boathouse was taken down on Nov. 11, 2013, and construction on the new boathouse began just two days later. The new structure will have capacity to house 56 boats and all other rowing equipment, a training room and an indoor exercise facility for warmup and stretching before the Blue Devils take to the lake. The project is expected to be completed at the end of February.
"We could not be more grateful and excited for these upcoming changes for our program,” said Elizabeth Howell, a senior and team captain. “A refurbished boathouse gives our team a new home, and the addition of more scholarships undoubtedly increases our capacity to recruit the kind of top-tier athletes that will help move our program forward. Personally, I am excited to know that when my class graduates, our team will be sustained by this commitment from Duke Athletics for many years to come."
Duke Athletics generated funds for the new boathouse and scholarships through donations from alumni and alumni parents as well as Duke University campus recreation. The scholarships were part of a larger improvement to all Duke women’s athletic teams that will bring to maximum capacity the available scholarships for Duke rowing, women’s fencing, women’s swimming and diving and women’s track and field over the next several years as well as the addition of softball as a varsity sport.
“Bringing DWR up to the maximum scholarship amount is going to have a tremendous impact on the program,” Horner said. “The additional scholarships will increase the competitiveness within our program and allow our team to push to new levels.”
Duke opens the 2014 season on March 9 against Tennessee on Melton Lake in Oak Ridge, Tenn. Duke returns six members of last year’s varsity eight, which defeated three ranked teams and clocked the fourth fastest time in school history at the 2013 Clemson Invitational.