Leadership Key to Cougar Rowing Success in 2022
The Washington State rowing team's student-athletes have had a fair share of ups and downs over the past couple seasons, but the water is finally clear as they begin their 2022 spring schedule.
Despite COVID-19 and rough Pullman winters not making it easy for the Cougars, they have still managed to cement themselves as one of the top programs in the country. In the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association rankings (CRCA) in February, 2022, WSU was ranked 17th nationally.
Head coach Jane LaRiviere is in her 20th season as the leader of the squad, most notably helping guide the Cougars to all 13 of their NCAA Team Championship appearances. She also had two of her rowers compete in both the 2016 Rio and 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
LaRiviere's team's success in the classroom is just as important to her as on the water, with 28 rowers selected to the 2020-21 Pac-12 Spring Academic Honor Roll. Additionally, 104 student-athletes have been named CRCA Scholar Athletes during her tenure
"She looks at this program as if we are right up there with the top schools in the nation," junior Cate Field said. "That's really impacted our confidence as a team."
Field, from Burke, Va., along with senior Gabby Hannen, a New Zealand native, are part of the team's five-member Leadership Committee. The committee consists of one member from each recruiting class, voted on at the beginning of the season by the entire team.
The purpose of the committee is to boost the overall moral of the team and a place teammates can go to for advice, support, or anything else they might need help with.
"Leadership-wise, I'm not a very vocal leader," Hannen said. "I just put my head down, I work, and try to bring those around me together. I know that a Division I sport, especially rowing, can be pretty overwhelming, so I just make sure everyone is okay and if people need things, I'm always there to help."
Hannen was one of many student-athletes across the world greatly impacted by COVID-19. After missing her entire freshman year due to a back injury, Hannen and the rest of her team were finally ready to get back in the boat until the virus canceled all scheduled events in 2020 and sent everyone home.
Although the team resumed regattas in the spring of 2021, Hannen remained in New Zealand and watched her team compete from a far. She kept busy by training and racing for her local team, Nelson Rowing Club.
"I wasn't here, but seeing the team get into their own little bubble, put their heads down, work really hard and make it to the NCAA Championships, it was really inspiring to watch," Hannen said. "It was also really good motivation for this year to try and better what we did last year."
Another obstacle the Cougars find themselves having to jump through year after year is the weather, as the Palouse's freezing winter months make it unsafe for the team to practice at Wawawai Landing on the Snake River. This challenge is not common, as most other programs WSU competes against have the ability to be on the water year-around.
The Cougars must substitute their time on the water by training at the Tom and Barbara Wilson Indoor Rowing Center, but the team's mindset is not altered and makes them even more confident when it's time to hit the water, Field said.
"Honestly, this is the first season that I have really took that into consideration," Field said. "But I don't think it's faltered us at all, our team is very confident in our abilities. We know what we want and we are going to work for it; it's not really a big question."
Field and Hannen both said everyone on the team is most looking forward to the Pac-12 and NCAA Championships, but also each regatta is just as important as the next. The overall goal for the team is to place top-10 at the NCAA Championships, which starts May 28 in Sarasota, FL.
"We might have taken it all for granted before COVID, but now we all understand how lucky we are just to be here," Field said.