Rowing Geared for Another NCAA Run this Spring
PULLMAN, Wash. – Spring is nearly upon us, and as the weather gets warmer with each passing day, the Washington State rowing team gears up for another season on the water with the goal of returning to the 2022 NCAA Rowing Championships in May.
The Cougars are coming off a 2021 season that only featured spring regattas due to the COVID-19 pandemic. WSU made the most of its abbreviated campaign a year ago, earning a bid into the 2021 NCAA Rowing Championships for the 14th time in program history, 13 of which have come under WSU Rowing Head Coach Jane LaRiviere. The Cougars placed 15th overall at the 2021 NCAA Championships and had its Varsity 4+ boat take eighth overall with a second-place finish in the 1V4 petite final.
A full slate of regattas returns this season, as the Cougars rowed at Gonzaga and California in the fall. Since then, Washington State has been gearing up towards the spring with training at both the Tom and Barbara Wilson Rowing Center on campus and Wawawai Landing.
"It's like back to normal for us and the rest of the country," LaRiviere expressed when asked about going back to a full regatta schedule this season. "It was definitely fun and motivating to race Cal and our neighbors to the north, Gonzaga (in the fall). We learned a lot and gained some information that we could build on. With rowing being such a training sport, we put in a lot more hours in training than racing, so it is really helpful to have a race on the near horizon to focus on."
Washington State opens the spring ranked No. 17 in the CRCA/Pocock Preseason Poll. Spring regattas get underway March 5 at Lake Las Vegas, as the Cougars row against Washington and Southern California.
"We're really looking forward to some of the early races," said LaRiviere. "We're putting in the work right now with training. We're looking to build some consistency. February has been a great month so far and we've been able to get a lot of work accomplished. The team is in a healthy place. The (first) race is kind of like dangling a carrot. It's a little bit of added motivation for people to get their work done. We're looking forward to racing a couple of quality opponents and getting the season started."
The regatta against the Huskies and Trojans is the first of six races for the Cougars this spring.
After Las Vegas, WSU heads to Dexter Lake in Oregon on March 19 to race for the Winchell Cup against Oregon State.
After an extended break to close out March, Washington State kicks it into another gear in April, as the Cougars will compete in three regattas over four weeks. The month of April opens in a familiar spot, as the Cougars head back to Lake Las Vegas to compete in the Pac-12 Invitational, April 9-10. After that, WSU gets a preview of the national championships course in Sarasota, Florida, as the Cougars will race in the Big Ten Invitational, April 16-17 at Nathan Benderson Park.
Washington State hosts Gonzaga for the Fawley Cup in the team's only home regatta this season on April 30 at Wawawai Landing. The 2022 Pac-12 Rowing Championships will be hosted by Oregon State and take place May 15 at Dexter Lake. The 2022 NCAA Rowing Championships will be held May 27-29 at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota, Florida.
"The way we look at the season is basically like a staircase," expressed LaRiviere. "Our hope is to improve with each outing. Anytime you get a race under your belt you'll have strengths and weaknesses you can identify and work on in practice. The Pac-12 Invite and the Big Ten Invite will have several out-of-conference schools. And for us, it's important that we take care of business and have some of our best races when we are being measured against people we only get to see once. There is also a chance that we'll have seen every Pac-12 team race before the Pac-12 Championships. That just means we have second and third chances with our conference foes, but it's one-and-done with most of the other teams out of conference. There is a bit more importance placed on those regattas."
WSU returns a heap of talent to its roster this spring and with a fall season of training under their belts, the Cougars are poised to make a return trip to Nathan Benderson Park. A total of 16 rowers that competed at the 2021 NCAA Rowing Championships return for the Cougars this season, which includes fifth-year senior Jessica Norris, who earned All-Pac-12 and CRCA/Pocock All-American honorable mention honors last season.
"We had a lot of leadership last season, and that was not with just the seniors, "said LaRiviere. "We had freshman, sophomore, and juniors all be leaders last season. They are all a year wiser now. I think this year, a lot of the same people are providing the leadership and inspiration to keep our noses to the grindstone and make progress. I do think we have the leadership that is required to make another run at (the NCAA Championships)."
LaRiviere says she has been reasonably satisfied with the direction that the rowers and coxswains have been moving towards in their training sessions.
"Cate Field has been dedicated to training and has seen some amazing technical improvements. Emma Barrett has been solid, and Kateryna Maistrenko has put the hours in and is reaping the rewards. There are quite a few people who are doing their jobs. Collectively, the freshman class has been doing their part and I think we could see four-or-five freshmen in the top couple of boats. To have good leaders, you have to have good followers, and I think we've got a good mix of both right now."
For more information on the Washington State rowing team, follow @WSUCougarRowing on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.