2001 Women's Crew Outlook
April 2, 2001
With team invitations to the NCAA Championship Regatta the past two years and a fourth place overall position in 2000, the Cal women's crew has established itself as one of the elite programs in the country. Heading into the spring 2001 campaign, third-year head coach Dave O'Neill needs to depend on the skills of a young and talented collection of women.
After losing nine letterwinners to graduation, the Cal women have an entirely different look for 2001. 'Last year, the team was far more experienced, but not nearly as deep,' said O'Neill. 'This year's crew is fairly young, but they are very hungry for success. I see 16 women with potential to make the varsity, and that internal competition has raised the standard among the entire unit. The progress has been phenomenal.'
Two key returners are captains Anne Beaulaurier and Megan Cooke. 'Both gained valuable experience in last year's varsity eight, and their leadership has been instrumental in continuing the success of the past two years,' said O'Neill.
'There are a lot of new faces, but we have definitely re-loaded and are ready for a great spring,' said Cooke, who won the pair event at the USRowing Club Nationals this past summer.A familiar face is senior Sarah Lovell, and a new one is Alison Skelley. Although the two have different experiences with Cal, they look to continue the tradition of success. Lovell, a four-year rower at Cal, rowed bow seat of the JV the last two seasons, and has competed at two NCAA Championships. Skelley came to Cal via the University of Alberta and has been able to balance her graduate studies with rowing. This is her first season rowing with the Golden Bears, but she has years of racing experience to her credit.
Sophomores Khobi Brooklyn and Katie Waller rowed stroke and four seat, respectively, in the 2000 varsity, which placed fourth at the NCAA Championship Regatta. With continued improvement, O'Neill expects both to contend for the varsity again this year. 'Khobi and Katie provided a terrific boost mid-season last year,' said O'Neill. 'Even though they are relatively young, their experience goes a long way.'
Adding to the young and talented group is freshmen Martha Helgeland, a former world champion at the junior level, and Ariana Canova, a complete newcomer to the sport. Helgeland also garnered valuable experience racing for her native Norway at last summer's Nations Cup Regatta. 'The addition of Martha has been wonderful,' said O'Neill. 'She is a very talented athlete and her spirit is a perfect fit for our team.' Canova walked onto the team in September and is now in contention for a seat in the varsity. 'She is one of the most gifted and hardest working athletes I have had the pleasure to work with,' said O'Neill 'It is impressive how well she has developed in such a short time.'
Three sophomores who compete for the varsity are Hilarie Martin, Patsy McGuire, and Erin Sanford. Martin and McGuire rowed over the summer and won a national championship at the USRowing Club Nationals. 'Those three women are what this team is about - great attitudes, hard workers, and real competitors,' said O'Neill.
Under the guidance of assistant coach Ellen Minzner, the freshmen will play an important role this season and for years to come. Teresa Oja, Hilary Meu, and Ona Johnson are just a few of those expected to contribute, and newcomer Emily Getchel has a great future.The 2001 season provides a tough challenge for the Bears as they have their eyes set on the Pac-10 and NCAA Championship regattas. 'Unlike past seasons, we are staying closer to home,' said O'Neill. 'Things are coming together very well as we prepare for big races in May. We have some great competition leading up to those races, and in years past we have found speed throughout the season. I expect the same this year.'
The Sport Illustrated for Women preseason poll ranks the Bears sixth nationally and O'Neill is comfortable with that evaluation. 'People simply see that we lost a number of people from last year, but they do not understand how far this team has come,' said O'Neill. 'Two years ago, the preseason polls did not even rank us in the Top 10, but the crew finished at No. 3. I am not going to place any limits on the current group of women. They might be young, but they are hungry for success.'