March 10, 2003
Los Angeles - Last season was characterized by many new beginnings for the UCLA women's rowing team. Ten years had passed since the end of the 1991 Pac-10 championship season when UCLA Athletics last recognized rowing, but in 2002, UCLA women's crew returned as a scholarship sport.
Only one year has passed since UCLA's inaugural NCAA season. It was the first year at UCLA for head coach Amy Fuller and assistant coach Guillermo Lemus, and it was an opportunity for the 40 UCLA students on the final roster to be a part of Bruin history as UCLA reestablishes itself as one of the nation's premier rowing programs.
"We had a pretty good first year," stated head coach Amy Fuller. "We accomplished a lot of things we tried to do on and off the water. We focused on setting the right foot forward, establishing standards, and putting down expectations on what it takes to become a Division I rower.
"We're still in a period of transition, and I think we will be for the next few years."
The 2003 season, though, is still marked with some firsts as the program continues to develop. It is the first year of any recruited athlete and any scholarship money for the sport. Two full scholarships were awarded for this season, and two more will be awarded next year. The program's rowing fleet has vastly expanded, and it is also the first year at UCLA for assistant coach Bill Zack.
The UCLA coaching staff is marked by several years of rowing and coaching experience. Returning for her second season at the helm of the UCLA women's rowing team is head coach Amy Fuller. Fuller brings over nine years of coaching experience as well as several years of national and international rowing into the program. A three-time Olympian, Fuller is one of most decorated female rowers in the sport's history.
Assistant coach Guillermo Lemus also returns for his second season with the UCLA women's rowing team. Lemus has several years of experience coaching junior, collegiate and master's programs. He first learned to row while training with the Guatemalan Junior National team and still competes on the master's level.
"Guillermo Lemus is back again this year, but his role has slightly changed," stated Fuller. "He is primarily in charge of running the boathouse facility, making sure the equipment is maintained and always in working order, as well as assisting both the varsity and novice crews on the water."
"He is really an asset," added Fuller. "He gives a really good positive energy to the team."
UCLA adds another threat to its coaching arsenal this season with the hiring of assistant coach Bill Zack. Zack begins his career at UCLA after six years as head coach at Sacramento State. He has served as an administrator to the sport through the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association and the NCAA advisory committee. He is also currently a U.S Rowing Women's Junior National Team Development Camp coach.
"Bill has many years of head coaching experience," stated Fuller. "He is primarily in charge of the novice crews and handles most of the recruiting duties. He has really been an asset administratively and is influential on every level, from training programs to establishing a better team environment."
Another addition to the team is volunteer assistant coach William Nguyen. Nguyen, a four-year coxswain at the University of Texas, will assist primarily with the novice squad.
"Our coaches offer a lot of top end experience in the knowledge and understanding of the sport," said Fuller. "We are here to teach the fundamentals and theories of rowing from our viewpoint and team approach."
Zack added, "Because of our experience, our rowers are essentially trained with the same techniques and physiology as the National team and the Olympic team. It's exciting for the rowers that are here, as well as for the rowers that will come."
The UCLA women's rowing team returns 15 letterwinners from last season, including four from the varsity squad and 11 from the successful novice team.
With no clear established lineup, every rower is vying for a spot in the varsity boat. In the stern pair, Fuller seeks a rower who sets a consistent rhythm and is quick and long through the water.
"The door is wide open," stated Fuller. "I do not know who will fill the stroke seat. There are a couple of candidates right now, but the qualities I am looking for are grace, power, long stroke, and consistency under any circumstance."
For the middle four and bow pair, Fuller stated, "Although the No. 6 seat is really critical because they have to transfer the rhythm of the stern pair, everybody needs to be consistent, long and powerful. It is really a matter of working together and finding the best lineup of people who follow each other and work well in that order."
"Irene has the best power-to-weight ratio on the team," stated Fuller. "She is very consistent, very smart and sets high standards for everyone. I'm sure she will be a contributor to the varsity eight."
Grova, named UCLA's Most Valuable Novice last season, returns for her second year to compete with the varsity squad.
"Monica had the fastest erg score on the team last year," stated Fuller. "Now she's consistently in the top three. She is very strong, dedicated and hardworking, as well as very coolheaded on the water."
Seniors Dawn Regan and Brooke Jordan competed with the varsity eight in the fall and will likely retain a seat in the spring. Both were in the first novice eight last season, although Jordan competed only at Pac-10's due to knee surgery earlier in the season.
"Dawn was named Most Inspirational last year," stated Fuller. "She's definitely a consistent force and a great leader. She sets very high standards for herself and really works hard to attain them.
"Brooke only raced once last season, so she is still essentially a novice. She's a very consistent performer, and I really feel comfortable wherever I put her in the boat."
"Jessica and Elizabeth are both extremely competitive," stated Fuller. "Jessica is one of our more technically sound rowers, and she will most likely sit in the varsity boat. She has a really smooth rowing stroke, but we are still working to improve her strength.
"Elizabeth is currently stroking the second varsity eight, but she is really vying for a position in the varsity boat. She is a very hard worker, and she is very efficient for her size."
First-year recruits Liz Pallas-Jacobs and Anja Wanberg also competed with the varsity eight during the fall. Pallas-Jacobs, who rowed with the U.S. Junior National Team, and Wanberg, a standout from Marin Rowing Club, are likely to contribute in the varsity eight during the spring.
"Liz is a fierce competitor," stated Fuller. "She really loves rowing, and she will have a bright future at UCLA. She has set really high standards for her herself and would like to someday move on to have an elite rowing career.
"Anja has really proven to be able to have the maturity and technique to sit on the varsity squad. She fits in really well and does what it takes to get faster."
A gem on the varsity squad is first-year rower Christianne Bengard. She too will be vying for a spot in the varsity boat.
"Christianne was a very pleasant surprise for us," stated Fuller. "She came in as a basketball player from Westmont College, so we knew she was an athlete. She immediately had the fastest erg score on the team. She has a natural raw talent and the ability to push herself."
Two returning members of the varsity squad who will increase the depth on the team are Heather McCluskey and Katie Larivey. Last season, McCluskey received a Pac-10 All-Academic team honorable mention and CRCA West Region National Scholar-Athlete accolades. Larivey was named the team's Most Improved rower.
"Kristina is a great contributor to the second varsity eight right now," stated Fuller. "She is a very well rounded athlete who also provides some comic relief for the team.
"Lauren has been surprising me this year. She's getting better and better on the water and her erg scores have started to creep down.
"Melissa is our strongest person in the weight room. She is a great all-around athlete, and will be a great contributor to the second varsity eight."
Increasing the depth on the varsity squad is sophomore Melanie Salter. Salter transferred from Loyola Marymount, where she rowed with the novice squad last season.
Hoping to return for the season is senior Lyndsey Wells and sophomore Victoria Gillis. Both are currently rehabbing injuries in UCLA's training room facility. Wells rowed the No. 6 seat of the varsity eight last year while Gillis placed sixth in the varsity four at Pac-10's.
The only two returning coxswains, Emina Ong and Valerie Rodriguez, were both novices last season. Ong, who coxed the novice eight to a fifth-place finish at Pac-10's, is in line to cox the varsity eight.
"Both Emina and Valerie are improving everyday," stated Fuller. "They have really stepped up without a role model. They have improved their steering, their technical understanding of rowing, and their ability to give feedback to the individuals in the crew. Our bladework has gotten so much better this year because the rowers have received much more individual feedback than I can give."
There are 27 members in this year's novice squad, including one junior, four sophomores and 22 freshmen. The novices look to extend the success from last season's squad.
"The novice squad is doing very well this year, and the way we are trying to grow the program, there is not really a clear division between them," said Zack. "The quality of the novice squad is not going to be determined by this year's race results but by the impact they will make in future years."
To prepare for the season the varsity rowers and the top 18 novices trained at the Bruin Ten Camp, a 10-workout clinic run by the coaches to saturate them with rowing before the winter quarter.
"The camp is designed to inundate them with rowing for a few days," stated Fuller. "During the camp, they also tend to form a more cohesive group and the team feel that is so critical to rowing."
Another method used to prepare for the season is their Friday mixed racing. "Four varsity rowers, four novices, and a coxswain are drawn at random to compete in an eight," stated Fuller. "We write the names on the board, and they decide the lineup. We have a point system, and at the end of the year, the top varsity and novice point winners will be awarded with yellow jerseys. It is part of a new tradition we established at UCLA and another goal our rowers strive toward."
The Bruins start off the spring season at home versus Long Beach State (Mar. 15), which will also be Parent/Alumni Day. A new eight will be christened, the "Still Brothers", after UCLA alumni and USA Olympians, Kevin and Mike Still. The Bruins then compete in Newport Beach to try to take home the Berg Cup (Mar. 22). The following weekend, UCLA hosts its marina rival, Loyola Marymount (Mar. 29), in a quest to take over the Karen Hock-Hjelm Cup.
From Apr. 5-6, the Bruins compete at the 30th Annual San Diego Crew Classic, where the novices made it to the Grand Final for the first time in ten years. This year, the Bruins try to improve their efforts with a final in the Women's Cal Cup race.
UCLA then hosts the Miller Cup (Apr. 12), where they will try to take back the coveted trophy for the first time since they last won in 1990.
The Bruins will then travel to Redwood Shores to compete at the Stanford Invitational (Apr. 19), where they will face UC Davis in the morning and Sacramento State in the afternoon. On Apr. 26, UCLA sets up to compete against the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, MN for some inter-region competition.
The Bruins face cross-town rival USC on May 3 for points toward the Lexus Gauntlet Challenge before preparing for the Pacific Coast Rowing Championships and the Pac-10's (May 17-18).
UCLA looks to improve its ranks in the Pac-10 as it faces the defending NCAA varsity and second varsity eight champions, the University of Washington. Cal and Stanford also ranked in the Top-10 in team standings at last year's NCAA event, and Oregon State, USC, and Washington State were ranked in the Top-25 polls throughout the season.