Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Women’s Rowing team celebrates season opener, Olympic qualifiers

Women’s rowing team charts progress on Melton Hill Lake
Paige Valley

The 2024 season opener for the University of Wisconsin women’s rowing team at the Cardinal Invitational provided a promising glimpse into what lies ahead for the Badgers. Held at Melton Hill Lake in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, this regatta served as a platform for the team to assess its strengths, make adjustments and set the tone for the season.

The highlight of the regatta was the remarkable performance of the second varsity four, which demonstrated resilience and determination throughout the competition. Placing second in both the morning and afternoon races on the first day, the crew showcased consistent improvement, culminating in an impressive second-place finish in the final race. Notably, they managed to shave off 21 seconds from their afternoon race time, underscoring their adaptability and capacity for growth.

Additionally, the third varsity four delivered a standout performance, securing a first place finish over their sole day two competitor, Notre Dame. Dominating the race by a margin of almost 25 seconds, this crew exhibited cohesion and strength, setting a high standard for future competitions.


The second varsity eight and third varsity eight boats also displayed commendable progress, with both crews improving their race times from day one. Notably, the second varsity eight trimmed their afternoon race time by seven seconds, while the third varsity eight achieved an improvement of 15 seconds. These results underscore the team’s commitment to continuous improvement and the effectiveness of head coach Vicky Opitz’s strategic lineup adjustments.

Opitz provided valuable insights into the team’s performance earlier this season, emphasizing the positive takeaways from the regatta. She commended the athletes for their adaptability and willingness to experiment with different lineup combinations, which contributed to increased speed in the second varsity eight and fours. Moreover, she expressed pride in the varsity four’s selfless act of switching boats, highlighting their teamwork and sportsmanship.

Looking ahead, Opitz conveyed optimism about the team’s trajectory and emphasized the importance of incorporating the lessons learned from the regatta into future training sessions. With a focus on continuous improvement and a resilient spirit, the Badgers are poised to build upon their early-season successes.

As the team prepares for the Big Ten Invitational in Sarasota, Florida, Opitz and her athletes remain determined to capitalize on their momentum. The regatta presents an opportunity for the Badgers to measure themselves against conference rivals and further refine their strategies ahead of the upcoming season.

As they embark on the remainder of the season, the Badgers are primed to make their mark on the collegiate rowing landscape, following in the foot steps of two UW alumni set to make waves at the 2024 Olympics.

The journey from humble beginnings on the tranquil waters of Lake Mendota to the grand stage of the Olympics is a testament to the dedication, perseverance and talent of two remarkable athletes — Sophia Vitas and Maddie Wanamaker. Both proud alumni, these women have earned their spots on the prestigious 2024 U.S. Olympic rowing team, poised to represent their country with pride and passion at the Paris Qualifiers this summer.

Maddie Wanamaker

For Wanamaker, a Neenah native, the path to Olympic glory has been paved with determination and grit. Having already tasted the intensity of Olympic competition at the 2020 Tokyo Games, Wanamaker returns to the Olympic stage with a wealth of experience and a hunger for success. A decorated international rower, Wanamaker’s journey began as a walk-on at UW in 2013, where she quickly made her mark on the collegiate rowing scene.

Throughout her tenure at UW, Wanamaker’s dedication to her craft propelled the team to impressive heights, culminating in a pair of top-10 NCAA finishes in 2016 and 2017. Her leadership and tenacity on the water earned her a spot on the U.S. Senior National Team, where she has since become a six-time member, solidifying her reputation as one of the nation’s premier rowers.

Wanamaker’s achievements on the international stage are equally impressive, with notable performances at the 2023 World Rowing Championships and the World Rowing Cup II, where she secured a fourth-place finish and a gold medal, respectively. Now, as she prepares to compete in her second consecutive Olympics, Wanamaker’s versatility and skill make her a valuable asset to the U.S. rowing team, with her participation in the women’s four and women’s eight crews eagerly anticipated.

Sophia Vitas

Franklin native Vitas made her Olympic debut in the women’s double sculls. Vitas is poised to showcase her talent on the world stage and etch her name in the annals of rowing history. Like Wanamaker, Vitas’ journey began as a walk-on at UW in 2013, where she quickly emerged as a rising star in the sport.

During her time at UW, Vitas played a pivotal role in the team’s success, contributing to a third place Big Ten Championship title in 2014 and helping the second varsity eight secure a fourth place finish in the NCAA Championships petite final in 2016. Her dedication and determination did not go unnoticed, earning her a spot on the U.S. Senior National Team, where she has since amassed an impressive five-time membership.

Vitas’ crowning achievement came at the 2023 World Rowing Championships, where she captured a bronze medal in the women’s double sculls, securing an Olympic spot for the USA in the process. Now, as she prepares to represent her country on the grandest stage of all, Vitas’ talent and tenacity make her a formidable contender in the women’s double sculls event, with her sights set firmly on Olympic gold.

As Wanamaker and Vitas prepare to embark on their Olympic journey, they join a distinguished lineage of UW athletes who have left an indelible mark on the world of rowing. From Carie Graves, Peggy McCarthy and Jackie Zoch, who secured bronze at the 1976 Olympics, to UW’s first Olympian Stewart MacDonald, the university boasts a rich tradition of excellence in the sport.

With Wanamaker set to become the 19th all-time Wisconsin women’s rower to make the Olympic team and Vitas poised to make her mark as a debutant, the Badgers’ legacy of Olympic success continues to thrive. Their achievements serve as a testament to the university’s commitment to fostering athletic talent and nurturing the next generation of champions.

As they take to the waters of the Seine River, Wanamaker and Vitas will carry with them the hopes and dreams of Badger nation, poised to make waves and etch their names in Olympic lore.

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