Rowers prepare for Philadelphia

Maikalina Madali

As Sacramento State’s women’s rowing team prepares to travel to Philadelphia for its final stand off in the 75th annual Dad Vail Regatta, some of the rowers deem this season as an overall success.

The Hornets started off strong in the spring season opener, winning four gold medals against six other crews in the Sacramento State Invitational. Although the team as a whole endured injuries and struggled to place mid-season, it raced fairly well in each regatta it has competed in.

“Overall this season has been successful for our team. All of our boats in both the varsity and novice categories have shown both strength and speed throughout our races this season,” said sophomore kinesiology major Michelle Evers. “We started off the season extremely strong at both of our home races and then went to San Diego and fared well against many fast teams.”

Saturday’s Causeway Classic against UC Davis turned out to be a bittersweet experience. The rival universities’ varsity eight crews have competed since 1997 for the Jean Runyon Cup.

This year would have been Sac State’s attempt to keep the cup for the 13th time; however, a pre-race accident damaged the varsity eight and third novice eight boats. Both races were cancelled, leaving the record at 12-4 with the Hornets in the lead as victors.

On the other hand, the Hornet boats in the remaining three races resulted in victories for Sac State. The second varsity eight, novice eight and novice four crews each defeated UC Davis by a gap of more than 35 seconds, adding three more gold medals.

“It was disappointing not being able to race this past weekend in Davis, but I am still extremely proud of the way that our other boats raced and their results were great,” Evers said. “I can’t wait to defend the Jean Runyon Cup next season.”

This is senior business major Socheata Guimond’s last season of her college career after being a part of the team for all four years.

Guimond said the camaraderie between the 50-plus team members has been strengthened over the years. She was happy to see the team work well together this season.

“As a group, we have grown to accept each other and know that everyone has their differences,” Guimond said. “With 40 girls, it can be really hard to mesh together well, but I think this year was one of the better ones. I feel accomplished and proud of what we have done this season. It wasn’t the easiest, but we did work hard and put in a lot of effort.”

Rowing is a sport that takes strong synchronism in order to reach the highest potential in time against other crews.

Because of the tight-knit group the team was able to establish, Evers said the skill set and levels have increased along with it.

“As a team, I have seen so many positive changes. Every day we are out on the water in the mornings practicing and as a whole our technique and cohesion (have) shown great improvement,” Evers said. “This year, I have noticed a much stronger bond between everyone on the team and this is huge in our sport. You can clearly tell that we trust each other and know that each person in the boat is giving 100 percent.”

Like many Hornet athletes, rowing as a sport has played a big role in each of the team members’ lives and college career.

Early practices, balancing school work and constant physical training are all the rowers know during the season – but most would not want to be going through college any other way.

“I honestly can’t imagine my life in college without rowing. It is the thing that I am most passionate about in my life right now and it pushes me to do well in school and make smart decisions in other areas of my life because I know how it will affect my performance on the water,” Evers said. “I am extremely blessed with my coaches and teammates because they have helped shape the person I am today and I am surrounded by amazing people every day.”

As Guimond prepares to end the competitive rowing chapter of her college career, she said she is sad to leave but happy to turn her focus toward other things.

“It has been difficult being on the team while going to school and holding down a job, but I wouldn’t change this experience for anything,” Guimond said. “I have had a lot to juggle these past four years, and I am really excited to just focus on school and a job.”

Although the Causeway Classic was the last full team regatta for Sac State, the varsity eight boat still has one more race left in Philadelphia. Evers is among the group to represent Sac State against crews from North America and Canada on Friday and Saturday.

More than 3,500 student athletes from more than 120 universities in North America and Canada compete on Philadelphia’s National Race Course.

Last year, the varsity eight boat finished in sixth place in the Women’s Varsity Heavyweight Eight grand final out of over 20 boats. This time around, the team expects the same, if not better, results to finish strong.

This season also marks the end of Sac State’s participation with the Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association after 18 years as a competitor. The team used this season as preparation to compete against the higher-ranking crews in Conference USA.

“Going into next season, as a team we are very excited to finally be a part of a conference,” Evers said. “Now we will have a conference championship, and have the opportunity to qualify for NCAA. We will be racing against many new teams that are very talented and it is exciting looking ahead at our competition.”


Maikalina can be reached on Twitter at @sh_sports