Season Outlook 2009

Feb. 12, 2009

To be the best you have to beat the best. The 2008-2009 Oregon State men's crew takes these words to heart as it prepares to compete against some of the best crews in the country over the course of the spring season. The Beavers are counting on several veteran rowers, as well as some talented underclassmen in their quest for a 15th consecutive appearance at the IRA Championships. The Beavers will see the return of several experienced rowers as well as senior Beth Olsen, who coxed last year's Varsity 8+ crew. Olsen will be joined by fellow seniors Ian George and Jon Young, both of whom spent the entire 2008 season rowing in the V8+. Junior Mike Buckiewicz also brings a full season of varsity experience. Senior Will Gustafson and junior Bronson Shafer add further depth to the team with both having earned spots in the varsity boat during their careers with Shafer earning a promotion to the V8+ for the Beavers in the Pac-10 and IRA Championships. Several rowers from last year's JV8+ and freshman crews are eager to show their development and earn seats in the varsity boat. Seniors David Weir and Campbell Woods provide experience and are expected to compete for spots in this year's varsity. In addition, head coach Steve Todd is particularly excited about his talented class of sophomores, including rowers Rob Hannah, Mike Luecker, Evan Peterson and Joe Wainwright and coxswain Stefan Evano. All five were members of the Beavers' Freshman 4+ that produced a fifth place finish at the IRA Champs. 'The varsity competition is wide open,' Todd said. 'Of all the upperclassmen, everyone has a shot. We just have to see how things go and how the training progresses.' The competition for the seats on the varsity boat will be influenced by the summer competition faced by several Beavers. Weir was selected as a member of the United States U23 National Team and earned a seat in the U.S. men's 4+ crew. Weir's training with the U23 team resulted in a trip to Brandenburg, Germany for the 2008 FISA World Rowing U23 Championships, where Weir's crew finished fifth. Shafer also found success while rowing for the Pennsylvania Athletic Club Rowing Association. Shafer rowed in the bow-seat of the Penn A.C. Senior 8+ crew, which won their division at the 126th Royal Canadian Henley Regatta and finished second at the U.S. Club Nationals. Shafer also helped lead the Penn A.C. Intermediate 8+ crew to a first place finish at the U.S. Club Nationals. George and Buckiewicz attended the USRowing Northwest Development Camp, over the summer to work on their strength and technique. Buckiewicz continued his summer experience by securing a spot as a member of the Senior Pair that went on to finish third at the U.S. Club Nationals. Once the crews are assembled, the Beavers will begin a season that pits them against some of the premier crews in the country. Oregon State will begin its spring season with dual races against regional foes University of Victoria and Gonzaga. The Beavers will travel to Victoria, B.C. on March 7th to meet their Canadian rivals for the fourth consecutive year. The trip to Spokane, Wash. two weeks later matches the Beavers up against an up-and-coming Gonzaga crew that sent two boats, including its Varsity 8+, to the IRA Championships last season. 'These are two good races and the trip to Victoria is pretty early in the season. It will be a good gauge of where we are early on,' Todd said. 'I think both crews are very competitive and will help get us ready for San Diego.' It is in San Diego where the Beavers are slated to compete in the 36th annual San Diego Crew Classic, held over the weekend of April 4-5. The race features a varsity field of 10 of the strongest crews in the country, all of which competed in the 2008 IRA Championships. Oregon State will be one of four Pac-10 crews in attendance while Ivy League crews from Harvard, Princeton, Brown and Yale will make the cross-country trip. Varsity crews from Michigan and Syracuse round out the field. With six of the crews in San Diego coming off top 10 finishes in 2008, and all 10 having competed at the 2008 IRA Championships the competition will be fierce. The Beavers will get a chance at revenge against a Syracuse crew that they raced at last year in San Diego and twice at the IRA Championships. The final match came in the Third Level Final at the IRA's where the Orange defeated the Beavers by a mere .2 seconds to win the race. 'Three of these teams Washington (second), California (third), and Stanford (fifth) were in the IRA Grand Final last year,' Todd said. 'It shows you that San Diego is a really big race and all ten varsity crews should be ranked in the top 20 at the beginning of the season. It should be a tough race, but it is always a lot of fun in San Diego.' Following a two week respite, the Beavers travel to Redwood Shores, Calf. to meet Pac-10 rivals Stanford and California as well as defending IRA Champion Wisconsin. Todd realizes the talent of the Beavers opponents but is confident in his team, saying; 'We are stacking our schedule very heavy, but these are the crews we have to compete against in order to improve.' In one last test before the Pac-10 Championships, the Oregon State crew gets a unique opportunity after being invited to compete in the Windermere Cup at the Opening Day Regatta in Seattle, Wash. In recent years the Beavers have sent both junior varsity and freshman crews to the Opening Day Regatta, but this will be the first year in which the whole team, including the Varsity 8+ will compete. In addition to facing off against another Pac-10 opponent in Washington, the Beavers will be matched up against the Brazilian National Team in a race that will provide valuable experience heading into the championship portion of their schedule. The Beavers return to Rancho Cordova, Calif. for the Pac-10 Championships on May 10. A strong performance at Lake Natoma could give Oregon State a shot at a 15th consecutive invitation to compete at the IRA Championships. For the first time ever, the IRA Championships are to be raced on the West Coast, on the same course that will be used for the Pac-10 Championships. 'It is important to compete hard this year, because going to IRA Championships in their first year on the west coast would be a big step for our program,' Todd said. 'It's a great racecourse and I am glad they are finally bringing the IRAs out here.' Assisting Todd this year is the newest addition to the Oregon State coaching staff. Gabe Winkler comes to Corvallis after spending two seasons as the men's lightweight assistant coach at Rutgers. Before beginning his coaching career, Winkler was a seven-time member of the US National team, earning various international medals including two World Championships. Winkler is in charge of the Beavers freshman crews during the 2008-2009 season. Todd is excited by the hire, saying; 'He has done a good job with the freshman, introducing them to the sport, and really showing them a strong passion for competing. His knowledge and background as a international athlete has really encouraged these young guys and I think they will be very fit and strong this year.'

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