Kelly And Zenon Babraj To Take Over USC Women's Rowing Program
June 25, 2002
LOS ANGELES - Kelly Babraj, head crew coach at William Smith College for the past three seasons, has been named head coach of the USC women's rowing team, while her husband, Zenon Babraj, head crew coach at Hobart College, has been named director of USC women's rowing, Trojan senior associate athletic director Steve Lopes announced today.
William Smith is a Division III women's college in Geneva, N.Y., while Hobart is its companion men's Division III college. The Babrajs previously were the head coaches of UCLA's women's and men's teams.
Together, the Babrajs replace George Jenkins, who resigned in May after guiding the Women of Troy to five consecutive NCAA appearances and a Varsity Four individual NCAA title in 1998.
'We are extremely excited to have Kelly and Zenon both joining the USC staff,' said Lopes. 'They are coming here with a wealth of rowing experience, both nationally and internationally. I am confident they will be able to build upon the successes which George established in our rowing program.'
'USC is a first-class institution with an incredible group of coaches, athletes and staff,' said Kelly. 'We are both really excited about this opportunity and the challenges that lie ahead. We can't wait to get started.'
Kelly Babraj directed the steady improvement of the William Smith rowing program over the past three years (2000-02). Her efforts led the 2002 squad to a third-place team finish at the first-ever NCAA Division III Rowing Championships. The Herons had four rowers on the 2002 CRCA All-America teams. In 2000, Kelly helped Derith Hart become William Smith's first-ever rowing All-American. In her three years, she led her Varsity Eight crews to two New York State Rowing Championships (2000 and 2001) and two NCAA appearances (2000 and 2002; before this season, two Division III teams were invited annually to compete in an all-divisions championship).
Prior to joining the William Smith staff, Kelly served as head rowing coach at UCLA for six years (1986-91) but left when the program was cut in 1991. She led the Bruins to top-4 finishes at the NCAA Championships in 1990 and 1991, while winning the Pac-10 Championships both seasons. The Bruins' Pac-10 titles marked the only time a school other than Washington had won the championship and, as a result, she earned three straight Pac-10 Coach of the Year awards (1989, 1990 and 1991). Kelly also served as the women's sculling coach for the U.S. Junior National team in 1989.
Kelly graduated from UCLA in 1985 with a bachelor of arts degree in psychology and was a two-year member of the rowing team. As a senior, she helped lead the Varsity Fours to the 1985 National Collegiate Championship. She was invited to the U.S. National Team camp in 1985 and won the gold medal in the pairs at the U.S. Olympic Festival that summer.
A native of Warsaw, Poland, Zenon Babraj spent the past three years (2000-02) at Hobart College. He led the Statesmen to a pair of top-5 finishes in the AVAYA Collegiate Championships and back-to-back third place finishes in the New York State Championships (the team's highest finish in that event since 1996) in 2000 and 2001.
Zenon joined the Hobart coaching staff with a long list of accomplishments at the national and international levels. An oarsman for the Polish national team from 1969-78, he served as the national team coach and director of the Olympic training center in Warsaw from 1978 until he came to the United States in 1984. His first stop in the United States was Seattle, where he served as a volunteer assistant coach at Washington in the fall of 1984. He moved on to Cincinnati in the spring of 1985 where he directed the Cincinnati Rowing Club. Later that year, Zenon was named freshman coach at Brown University and led his crews to the 1986 Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships in the eight and four-oared events that year.
During the summer of 1986, he became the men's rowing program director at UCLA. In his five years at UCLA (1987-91), he led the Bruin men to three straight Pac-10 Championships (1987-89) and earned Pac-10 Coach of the Year accolades each season. UCLA's 1987 Pac-10 Championship was the school's first in 17 years, while the 1988 title marked the first repeat in the 55-year history of the program. While at UCLA, he also served as a rowing coach for the U.S. national team from 1986 until 1990.
In 1992, Kelly and Zenon moved to Alaska and opened the Alaska Sports Academy, training individuals and teams in several sports at the high school, collegiate, and elite level. Together they coached a number of athletes who went on to compete on U.S. National teams in their respective sports. The pair left Alaska in 1999 when Zenon was hired as an assistant rowing coach with the U.S. national team in preparation for the World Championships.
A 1974 graduate of the Engineering College in Warsaw, Zenon holds a master's degree in sports science from the Academy of Physical Education in Warsaw.