Jan. 10, 2002
Los Angeles - Last spring, the Bruin rowers waited in anticipation for the start of this 2001-2002 season. And why not? UCLA announced in early February that it would reinstate women's rowing as an intercollegiate sport. For the returning rowers, the announcement fulfilled many aspirations. For the newcomers, this was a tremendous opportunity, too great to overlook.
Changes and expectations are inevitable for the start of a new program, but as UCLA women's crew embarks on a new era, last year's program has made the transition much easier. They approached their season with a serious and confident air, avidly preparing for the heightened competition that embodies the sport. Their efforts proved rewarding, with a gold medal at the Pacific Coast Visitor's Cup.
UCLA women's crew returns eighteen rowers from last year's club team, five of whom have been in the program for two or more years, and the majority of whom have never rowed until college. Their veteran leadership and experience is pivotal for the establishment and direction of the program.
"I'm excited about the people stepping up from last year's club," said head coach Amy Fuller. "They came to UCLA because they are winning people, and they are stepping up to the task at hand. They're accepting the challenge and consistently improving their performance on and off the water."
Since its reinstatement, women's rowing has loaded its coaching arsenal with a three-time Olympian, Amy Fuller, a Master's National Championship rower, Guillermo Lemus, and an elite rower from Cal, Jaime Goodrich. Fuller will head the program, with Goodrich and Lemus as assistant coaches. Together, they will be instrumental in preparing the team for this inaugural NCAA season.
In this year of transition, the coaches seek to build a resilient foundation, establishing a powerful program for the future.
"This season is all about infrastructure," said Fuller. "We need to get things up and running, setting the program in the right direction. We want the women to be focused, determined, and limited only by their potential. They need to establish the right mentality, the Bru"win" attitude. They want to go out there and represent the school the best that they can, and all I'm asking them to do is to work hard."
The team dynamic of rowing separates this sport from all of the rest. Rowing encompasses every meaning of the word team. With unison, consistency, and dependence as integral factors in rowing, it is impossible to single out a seat that is more important than another.
With the conclusion of the fall rowing schedule, the lineups from these regattas reveal only a hint of the depth at each seat. The rowers are not set to these seats, since at least four rowers pull on opposite sides of the shell.
"The eight that we put together in the fall were great," said Fuller. "It was based primarily on their fall ergometer scores. The face of the team can still have a lot of changes in the spring because I think the novices are going to step up. Many of the seats are still open. I'm the facilitator, and I want to empower them, give them everything they need, and then say it's up to you. These seats are available, so get them."
"The coxswain is almost an extension of the coaching staff," said Fuller. "They're a liaison between the athletes and the coach, and they're obviously affecting the technique and execution in the boat. They really are leaders, and they're integral in getting the most out of the athletes."
Fulfilling these positions for the fall rowing schedule were second year rowers, Kate Harbour and Desiree Seeman. Harbour, the only returning coxswain from last season, headed the Varsity 8 at the top of the stern. Seeman, who also rows on the starboard side, made the transition to coxswain to increase UCLA's depth.
Freshman Kathryn Woodruff, a three-year varsity rower from the San Diego Rowing Club, is probably the team's most experienced and versatile rower, rowing more years than anyone on the team. She also will train as a coxswain, but there should be no surprise, come spring, to see her at any seat in the shell.
The Stern Pair
"The stern pair usually consists of rowers that are technical, rhythmic, and long through the water," stated Fuller. "I like to put my stronger, more consistent rowers in those seats. I look for the rowers who won't fade out in end and who I can rely on for the last 500m to really kick it to the next level so that the rowers have something dynamic and consistent to follow."
Carey-Ruiz, a versatile third-year rower, earned the stroke seat for the Varsity 8. She shows great consistency and a solid work ethic, making her a valuable member of the team.
"Jennifer Carey-Ruiz is a fierce competitor, added Fuller. "She is very efficient for her size, and she has the right attitude."
Kostich, one of the prominent rowers from last year's stand-out novice class, rowed the seven seat in the Varsity 8. No doubt she will continue to train hard to lead the this team into the spring.
The depth at the stern pair extends toward Jennifer Mitamura and Aimee Chen. A fourth-year rower, Mitamura has demonstrated a high level of consistency and work ethic, earning the stroke seat for the JV 8 during fall season.
Chen, a senior, two-time Pac-10 All-Academic selection, rowed the seven seat in the JV 8 and figures to retain a seat in the spring.
The Middle Four
"The middle four seats are usually called the powerhouse of the boat," stated Fuller. "Generally, these are the rowers with the most physical strength and the ability to support the rhythm of the stern pair."
Irene Condella, Heather McCluskey, Katrina Craig, and Claire Weatherford saw action in the fall for the Varsity 8. Condella, another prominent novice from last year's group, has stepped up in taking a leadership role on the team.
Craig, last year's novice captain, is progressing as well, continually reaching closer to her potential. With the top ergometer score on the team, she has a very promising future.
Also making an impact on the team are a trio of second-year rowers, Michelle Adams, Sarina Cox, and Katie Larivey. In the fall, they rowed the middle four in the JV 8. With high aspirations and an availability of spots on varsity, they are a threat to compete for those positions.
The Bow Pair
"The two seat and the bow seat are extremely technical positions on the boat," expressed Fuller. "They're probably the hardest seats to row because they require more quickness and anticipation. Also, the set of the boat is more affected by how the bow pair row and how they work together with the rest of the boat."
Kennedy, in her third year rowing, has capitalized on the opportunities from this rowing season to make drastic leaps in performance. She is also setting the tone for next season, utilizing the most power per pound on the team.
"Kathy Kennedy, a really fierce lightweight from last year's team, is right in the mix of pushing people and letting them see that hard work pays off," stated Fuller.
Reaching further into UCLA's depth, Lynn Ercolani, who rowed the bow seat for the JV 8 this fall, is stretching to reach her potential. She will be right there in the mix for the twenty-three available seats.
UCLA women's rowing actively recruited on campus this year, enlisting 12 athletes that were officially added to the roster this fall. Eleven of the 12 were cross over athletes, who competed in a sport other than rowing in high school. Coach Fuller, who began rowing as a sophomore in college, progressed to become a three-time Olympian, so she recognizes that high school experience, although beneficial, is not a mandatory prerequisite for rowing.
"The most important kind of experience that we're looking for is people who have been competitors," said Fuller. "I don't mind if they've never rowed before because then they can learn to row the style and technique that is UCLA."
"I'm really excited about all the of the first year people," added Fuller. "I think we have a lot of great cross over athletes coming in from other sports, and they are really excited about coming out and representing the Bruins. It is a tremendous opportunity to walk on a team during its first year. Both the newcomers, and the returning rowers realize that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and they say to themselves, 'I'm going to take a hold of it and give it all I've got.'"
In their first of two fall season regattas, the Bruin rowers captured a home victory at the Head of the Marina. The following week, the Varsity 8 stroked a top four finish at the Newport Autumn Rowing Festival to close the season.
In the upcoming spring, UCLA will compete at three dual meets, facing Long Beach State, LMU, and USC, and six regattas. The Pac-10 is powerful once again this year. At the Pac-10 Rowing Championships, the Bruins will keep a keen eye on the defending NCAA Champion Washington Huskies, and top four NCAA finisher, USC.