2002 Women's Crew Season Outlook
March 25, 2002
After its third-consecutive team invitation to the NCAA Championships Regatta, Cal women's crew is established as one of the premier programs in the country, and looks to challenge for the 2002 national title. Fourth-year head coach Dave O'Neill returns nearly his entire team from 2001, which placed sixth at NCAAs last May.
The youth which marked last season has developed into experience, as 18 of the 20 rowers who competed at the 2001 NCAA Championships return. These athletes are more skilled and seasoned, and O'Neill is proud and impressed with the development of the squad.
'The fall was very focused and productive,' said O'Neill. 'It was great to see good rowers improve. From our first meeting in August, our eyes have been set on the season-ending regattas. Since we returned the majority of the team, it was important for the group as a whole to move forward, and we did that. Everyone is stronger and more technically accomplished.'
Leading the way for the Golden Bears is senior Megan Cooke, co-captain and 2001 CRCA All-American. With a silver medal at the 2001 Nation's Cup Regatta to Cooke's credit, her experience and leadership stands out from a pool deep in talent. 'As one of the best collegiate rowers in the country, Cookie has become the heart and soul of this team,' said O'Neill.
After two seasons in the varsity, juniors Khobi Brooklyn and Katie Waller continue to develop and look to compete in the top crew again. Last spring, Martha Helgeland stepped into the varsity in her first semester at Cal and expects to play a more significant role this season. Their experience will be important as Cal faces an increasingly competitive field.
Three additional returning varsity rowers that figure to be in the mix are former walk-ons Erin Sanford, Ariana Canova, and co-captain Hilarie Martin. 'These three are real competitors and always pull incredibly hard,' said O'Neill. 'In fact, I am pleased with the way all the women from last year's varsity have progressed. They have committed themselves to winning a national title, and we have moved in that direction every day.'
Senior Molly Denning is in her fourth and final season at Cal. After competing at the three previous NCAA Championships, she is primed to make her final race as a Golden Bear a memorable one.
Newcomers to the program are freshmen Laura Terheyden and Shaina Kennedy, along with transfer Shelle Orem. All three have stepped in nicely and will make an impact. 'Laura and Shaina were two of the top recruits in the country, and Shelle will play a very important role,' said O'Neill. 'These additions have meant a lot to the team, both in ability and personality.'
Under the leadership of assistant coach Sara Nevin, who is in her first year at Cal, the novice squad has been working hard and is prepared for a terrific spring. 'This is the most talented and deepest class we have had in my four years at Cal,' said O'Neill. 'They are a motivated, competitive group and have a terrific future as Golden Bears.' Emily Burkett, Karin Clifton and Erin Cafaro have caught the attention of the coaches and are expected to turn heads for years to come.
The 2002 season provides a challenge and good preparation as Cal looks towards a fourth-consecutive berth at the NCAA Championships in Indianapolis, Ind. The highlight of the dual race season will be April 27 against defending national champion Washington. 'The Pac-10 and the West continue to field the best crews in the country, so making it to another NCAAs will be tough,' said O'Neill. 'However, we will be well prepared once we are there, and we will be racing to win.'
The preseason polls have yet to be published, but Cal figures to be ranked in the top ten. The Bears kept a low profile during the fall, and O'Neill believes his squad may be overlooked until results begin to come in this spring.
'Compared to last spring, the jump in speed for the varsity and JV should be remarkable,' said O'Neill. 'We will be able to match speed with anyone in the country. An NCAA title is clearly the goal for this program.'