With First Race Saturday, Rowing Sets Sights High For Start of Season

March 22, 2002

Last year, USC made great strides in proving that it has become one of this nation's premier women's rowing programs in this country. Coming off its most successful season since the program first became fully funded in 1998, the Trojans look to surpass those accomplishments in 2002.

Equipped with one of USC's strongest-ever Varsity Eight lineups, the 2001 Trojans not only were ranked as high as No. 2 by mid-season, but also made their first appearance in the NCAA Championship Varsity Eight Grand Final. Once there, USC finished fourth, just seconds behind eventual national champion Washington. USC completed the season ranked No. 4 by USRowing and the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association.

But the highlight of the season came at the very start of spring racing. With only one dual race under their belts, the Trojans burst onto the national scene at the 2001 San Diego Crew Classic held at Mission Bay, Calif.

In one of the biggest upsets in the 28-year history of the Classic, USC edged nine-time defending champion Washington to win the prestigious Jessop Whittier Cup Women's Varsity Eight title. The Women of Troy nipped the Huskies by a seat length, giving Washington its first loss in the event since 1991.

'It was the first time that we beat teams like Virginia, Cal and Washington,' said ninth-year head coach George Jenkins. 'Our victory made everyone aware that USC is now a national contender. We are not just a good crew, but one of the very best crews.'

That same day also proved extremely successful for USC's JV Eight boat. In the grand final, the Women of Troy finished fourth despite drawing lane six and battling through rough waters. But the crew's performance came a day after the Trojans were forced to fight their hardest battle just to secure a spot in the divisional final. In the qualifying heat on Saturday, USC's boat began taking on water from high swells in the second half of the 2,000-meter course. By the time the team reached the finish line the rowers were up to their waist in water and rescue efforts had begun. The Trojans still managed to qualify for the Grand Final and proved that USC was capable of holding its place among the elite, no matter the circumstance.

'Last year turned out to be a very successful season for the whole team and I hope we are going to be able to carry on from where they left off,' said Jenkins, who led USC to its only rowing title in 1998 when the Varsity Fours captured the NCAA Championship. 'To continue the same type of success into the late season will be a big focus for us. Luckily, the coaching staff has been working very closely with the team in order to accomplish that.'

USC's success of 2001 still fell short of the team's top priority - to get the whole squad to the NCAA Championships. The Women of Troy have been represented at the NCAAs each year since 1998 but never have qualified as a team (a team bid includes a Varsity Eight, Varsity Four and JV Eight boat).

'Last year our crews maintained speed throughout the season and it may have affected them by the time they reached the NCAA Championships,' said second-year assistant coach Peter Vescovi. 'I think we are going to have a bright spring ahead of us because I expect for us to be rowing our fastest by the time the Pac-10s roll around.'

USC hopes that this will be the year that the entire squad will make the trip to the NCAA Championships on May 31-June 2 on Eagle Creek in Indianapolis, Ind. To prepare, the Trojans will face San Diego State (March 23), UCLA (March 30), Iowa (April 13) and Stanford (April 27) all at home and then defend their title at the San Diego Crew Classic (April 6-7) before competing at the Pac-10 Championships (May 19).

'I think we are certainly in the same ballpark that we were last year and only time will tell if we will be able to pick up where we left off,' said Jenkins. 'I expect that we will have comparable success to that of 2001.'

This season the Trojans will have the benefit of 10 returning varsity members, 10 returning novice members who will make the jump to varsity this year, and five newcomers.

One of the strengths of this year's Varsity Eight boat will be its cohesiveness thanks to the return of four letterwinners with significant rowing experience: senior fourth-year letterwinner Ivelina Boteva (Rousse, Bulgaria), senior second-year letterwinner Katrin Gleie (a 2000 Olympian from Lyngby, Denmark), junior third-year letterwinner Zo� Hoskins (Edmonton, Canada) and redshirt junior Marketa Vochoskova (Trebon, Czech Republic).

Hoskins, as well as senior Katie Sadalski (Novato, Calif.), will serve as the team's co-captains as selected by their teammates.

'Even though we lost very valuable rowers from last year, we return our strongest core of rowers to the varsity boat,' said Jenkins. 'The people who generated the most power for us last year - Boteva, Hoskins, Gleie, Vochoskova - are all back and helping the crew tremendously.'

'We have good leadership this season on all our squads and that is going to make a significant difference,' said assistant coach Lori Guerrero, who is in her second year full-time with the USC program. 'The team is much more cohesive and that's a credit to our team captains. '

Joining Hoskins and Vochoskova as second-year varsity letterwinners, are juniors Jeanne De Lapoyade (Bergerac, France) and April Hudlett (Orlando, Fla.). The Trojans also have three returning with one year of varsity experience: sophomores Andrea Korom (Palic, Yugoslavia) and Melissa Zimel (Portland, Ore.) and junior Maria Tovar (Los Angeles, Calif.).

'We lost some good boat movers to graduation, but we think we have already replaced them with very talented athletes,' said Jenkins. 'Athletes like (Katie Sadalski) and (Jean De Lapoyade) who were both at the top end of the JV boats last year and have made that natural transition into the varsity boat. They have both spent some time in the varsity before and are going to be definite contributors.'

Ten athletes are making the jump from the 2001 novice roster to this year's varsity squad, led by junior Julia Miles (Arcadia, Calif.) and sophomores Shruthi Aradhya (Davis, Calif.), Amber Aura (Santa Cruz, Calif.), Amanda Brown (Alameda, Calif.), Lauren Buford (Hayward, Calif.), Amanda Cross (Manhattan Beach, Calif.), Christian Radley (Upland, Calif.), Andria Shook (Redlands, Calif.), Raven Taylor (Houston, Texas) and Margeaux Witte (St. Paul, Minn.).

Making their USC debut this season with the varsity squad are freshmen Molly Danielson (Pacific Palisades, Calif.), Courtney Jacobs (Fair Oaks, Calif.), Kate Kaso (Alameda, Calif.), Jessica Patterson (Larkspur, Calif.) and sophomore transfer Sarah Meade (Oklahoma City, Okla.).

The Varsity Eight boat will likely be anchored by Hoskins, Sadalski, Gleie, Boteva, Korom and Vochoskova. The experience shared among these five will surely elevate the performance of the four yet to be added to the lineup. The Varsity Eight coxswain is still undecided, as USC has to choose between two valuable candidates, sophomore Zimel and newcomer Patterson. And the remaining positions will likely be filled by De Lapoyade, Shook, Hudlett or Miles.

The Trojans have always relied heavily on the progression of their novice squad in order to later benefit the varsity program. Under the leadership of Guerrero, the novices have already become a valuable resource, including the 10 who this season joined varsity.

'The novices are going to do much better than they have in the last couple of years because we have a very athletic group of walk-ons who joined the team this season,' said Guerrero. 'We also have the benefit of having some rowers with experience to help with the leadership in the boats.'

USC only competed twice this fall, but has already shown that there will be no letdown for the Trojans after the success of 2001 as they begin the spring racing season.

In October, the Women of Troy competed in the prestigious Head of the Charles and placed 10th in the Championship Eight race with the eighth best time among collegiate entries.

At the Newport Autumn Rowing Festival held in November, the USC Varsity Eight boat captured its first victory, placing first in a field of 21 teams. The Trojans finished the 2,000-meter course nearly one minute ahead of second-place finisher UC Davis, while the JV Eight crew competed in the same race and finished 13th. USC also raced four novice boats and finished sixth, 12th, 17th and 20th, respectively.

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