Rowing Squad Preps For 2005 Spring Season

March 5, 2005

There is a buzz surrounding the USC women's rowing program because 2005 marks the first year that every member of the team was recruited by third-year coaches Kelly and Zenon Babraj.

Each rower came to USC to compete under the Babrajs, and the Babrajs believe in the talent of each of these rowers. Because of that, the co-head coaches are confident that the Trojans are now in a position to be nationally competitive at every level.

Together the Babrajs--the husband and wife team were named USC's co-head coaches in June of 2002--possess a wealth of national and international coaching experience, including 13 years at the Division I level. Zenon, who coached the Polish National Team from 1978 through 1984, also serves as the Trojans' program director.

Just as it has been since the Babraj's arrived at Troy, USC's goal in 2005 is to earn its first-ever team bid to the NCAA Championships. The Trojans, who have made seven-consecutive NCAA appearances in individual races and even captured a Varsity Four national championship in their 1998 NCAA debut, have never qualified as a team (a team bid includes a Varsity Eight, Varsity Four and JV Eight boat).

'We came very close last year,' said Kelly, who served as the women's head coach at UCLA for five seasons (1987-1991) and was a three-time Pac-10 Coach of the Year. 'The NCAA committee members select 12 teams and we probably were 13th on their list. That was disappointing, but we just didn't have the talent we needed last year. This year, there is an enormous difference in talent and it is so exciting for us.'

'Last year was still a transition year,' added Zenon, who spent six seasons coaching the Bruins' men's team and led UCLA to three Pac-10 Championships (1987-89). 'We did the best we could last year, but it was still a little new. Now, for the first time, we have people who were trained in this program since we came in.'

USC's strength over the past few years has been the numerous accomplishments of its Varsity Eight crew, which has made six straight NCAA appearances, captured the 2001 Jessop Whittier Cup and finished as high as No. 4 nationally (2001).

Last season, the Varsity Eight finished 12th overall at the NCAAs and third at the Pac-10 Championships. Also in 2004, the Eights captured their fifth-consecutive title at the Newport Autumn Rowing Festival (a feat they again repeated this Fall for the sixth time), finished second at Head of the American (Sacramento, Calif.) and sixth at the San Diego (Calif.) Crew Classic, competing against the top teams on the West Coast.The Varsity Four and JV Eight crews won titles at the George Washington Invitational Crew Classic (Washington D.C.) and all four boats, including the Novice Eights, swept both UCLA and Stanford in dual races held in Los Angeles and in the Bay Area, respectively.

At the Pac-10 Championships, the Trojans advanced to the Grand Finals in all three main events (Varsity Eight, Varsity Four, JV Eight) for only the second time in program history (repeating their 2003 feat).

This season, the Trojans expect to benefit from the return of 15 varsity letterwinners, including four members of last season's Varsity Eight lineup. These four rowers--seniors Sarah Pomeroy (Simsburry, Conn.) and Anne Molholm (Dublin, Ohio), junior Megan Biging (Santa Monica, Calif.) and sophomore Simone Manhold (Essen, Germany)--will be looked upon to help guide a team that welcomes 20 newcomers, including eight who rowed novice last season.

Manhold is the Trojans only returning award-winner. In just her first season with the Women of Troy, the No. 5-seat rower and member of the German Junior National Team, was named to the CRCA All-America second team. Former teammate and current graduate assistant coach Andrea Korom was USC's other 2004 honoree, earning first-team accolades for the second-straight season.

Molholm and Pomeroy bring a great deal of collegiate experience as they enter their third season as members of the Varsity Eight crew. Not only did they lead the Women of Troy to the NCAA Grand Final in 2003, but also helped lead William Smith College to a third-place finish at the first-ever NCAA Division III Championships in 2002, prior to transferring to USC.

The pair is joined by fellow senior Kate Kaso (Alameda, Calif.) as four-year varsity letterwinners. Along with Biging, three-year varsity letterwinners include seniors Kate Donovan (Manchester, N.H.), Brittany Mohr (Pasadena, Calif.), Kathryn Weslow (San Francisco, Calif.) and Liz Zeanah (Gainesville, Fla.).

In addition to Manhold, second-year rowers include junior Lauren Derby (Marin, Calif.) and sophomores Lauren Cowan (Los Angeles), Anna Efremova (Moscow, Russia), Kinga Marciszewska (Warsaw, Poland), Barbora Varekova (Olomouc, Czech Republic) and transfer Kristen Souza (Honolulu, Hawai'i). Souza rowed at Washington last season.

Weslow, Zeanah and Cowan are coxswains.

Pomeroy (elected as the upperclass captain) and Cowan (under-class) will share captain responsibilities this season and lead the team through example and commitment.

'Sarah has an incredible work ethic,' said Kelly. 'Since she has been here, she has missed maybe one practice. She is there all the time putting in extra work. She is a leader by example and never asks anyone to do anything she wouldn't do herself. This year for the first time, a lot of her teammates are putting in that kind of extra time, which had been a struggle in the past.

'Lauren is also very dedicated to this team. She is the kind of athlete that will do anything and everything she can for her team. She is not a selfish or boastful person. She is a quiet leader.'

Making their USC debuts this season with the varsity squad are freshmen Tatiana Boldyreva (Lipetsk, Russia), Lisa Buckley (Marietta, Ga.), Ariadne Chucolowski (San Diego, Calif.), Phebe Greenwood (Richmond, Va.), Diana Ivanova (Rousse, Bulgaria), Ligita Kaviere (Valmieras Rajons, Latvia), Shelley Koskovich (Los Angeles), Dunja Pejcic (Belgrade, Serbia), Amanda Searles (Irvine, Calif.), Claire Sullivan (San Francisco, Calif.), Kathryn White (Newport Beach, Calif.) and coxswain Elizabeth O'Neill (Bowden, England).

Eight athletes are making the jump from the 2004 novice roster to this year's varsity squad, including senior Natalie Beglau (Lake Arrowhead, Calif.), sophomores Golden Broughten (Portland, Ore.), LaNita Campbell (Carson, Calif.), Laura McDaniel (Chicago, Ill.), Lyndsay Price (Carlsbad, Calif.), Jessica Shannon (San Jose, Calif.) and Jessica Smith (Mission Viejo, Calif.), and redshirt sophomore Anna Liberovsky (Rockville Center, N.Y.).

'This year we have a very young team,' said Kelly. 'The freshman class is very big, but they are very good and bring a lot of diverse experience. If we do well this year, it will mean a lot for the future. It will establish a strong foundation.'

The team officially kicks off the 2005 racing season when it competes against Sacramento State on Sunday, March 13, on Lake Natoma in Rancho Cordova, Calif. The Trojans will then travel to Marina del Rey to face rival UCLA in the fourth-annual Lexus Gauntlet dual on March 20.

USC will start the month of April at the San Diego Crew Classic (April 2-3) before hosting Loyola Marymount at the USC Boathouse in the Port of Los Angeles on April 9 - its only home race of the season. The regular season will end with races at Ohio State and at Princeton on April 16 and 30, respectively.

For the second-straight seasons, the Pac-10 and NCAA Championships both will be held on Lake Natoma, as the Trojans hope their familiarity with the course will bolster their performance. USC's results at the conference championships on May 15 will determine the bids awarded to the NCAA championships on May 27-29.

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