Experience is team’s strength

Amanda Pollard

Expectations fell short last semester when the women’s rowing team did not meet its goals at the Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championship.

Coach Mike Connors said the strength is in experience. He added that it takes three to four years to become an effective rower.

“With many seniors and a good contingent of juniors, the team will be more experienced,” he said.

The last time Sacramento State won an NCAA title was in 1997, when it finished in third place.

“Last season was bittersweet,” Conners said. “We didn’t perform well in the WIRA. We did come back in the Pac-10, and did enough to win the team title.”

The rules have changed since 1997, teams are no longer allowed four at-large entries.

“It’s hard to get a team into the NCAA’s,” Conners said.

Two years ago, Sac State’s team won the varsity eight and the team title in the WIRA league. Connors remains optimistic with the possibility of another title win.

“For us, it is more of a process,” Conners said. “I hate to say we have no chance because anything is possible.”

Connors said that with the current competition the team would have to perform perfectly with no margin for error.

“It is still a possibility but will be very difficult,” Conners said. “For us, the first thing we have to do is get one boat into the Pac-10 finals. Once you do that, you get some recognition and everyone believes they can do it.”

Connors said the team would have to make it to the point where even if it lost, it would be merely by a second or two.

He would only comment on the most complete rowers, but not who might be labeled as the “strongest rowers,” where he named among the many both co-captains. Connors said he looks to Amy Chenard to provide a lot of leadership to the team.

Chenard’s participation with summer rowing with a club team in Philadelphia has furthered her experience and will help the team in the long run Connors said.

He also said the lower classmen have the potential to be among the strongest rowers.

“Two or three sophomores are doing very well,” he said. “Holly (Hopkins) and Chelsea (Semrau) were in “varsity eight” last year. Freshman Rachel Stewart is good and will probably become one of our most complete rowers. Kelly Cook is a sophomore who is also stepping up.”

Senior Chenard said she was disappointed that the team placed fourth in the championship last May.

“Most of us are pretty hungry for a win,” she said.

The team may have a leg up this season with many new recruits. Chenard said that the younger girls on the team have begun to step up and are beginning to improve their speed.

Fellow co-captain Ashley Loucks said that the team is strongest this year in its camaraderie.

“Double days in the rain are bringing a lot of team bonding, which we can use,” she said. “We are focusing on molding the novice and varsity together during workouts.”

In addition, Loucks feels depth in the program is something she would like to see before her senior year comes to an end.

Both captains agreed that they looked forward to their senior year and receiving a higher place in the championship.

“I’m a senior,” Loucks said. “I want to have as much fun as possible and go out with a bang. As a captain, I want to leave my mark with the team.”

The women’s rowing team will have a scrimmage against UC Berkley on Feb. 23. Two weeks later, on Mar. 8, the team will have its first official race against Santa Clara.

Amanda Pollard can be reached at [email protected]