Rowing gets feet wet at Portland Fall Classic

By The Beacon | November 1, 2011 9:00pm

(-- The Beacon)

By Jason Hortsch Staff Writer

The UP Women's Crew team has much to look forward to this season. This year marks the first time the team has performed as a Division 1 program, and this weekend the team placed fourth in the first varsity eight portion of the Portland Fall Classic, their first competition as a D1 team. This is only the beginning, however. Coaches and players expect many more great things to come.

Junior Jamie Opra, a starboard rower, says the team is focused on showing their school just what they can do in addition to building a solid foundation for successive years.

"I think our team really wants to make our student body and our school proud," Opra said. "Having it being such a new team means we want to represent UP well and set the bar high for years to come. Even though it's our first year we don't want to use that as an excuse."

Her sentiments were mirrored by head coach Bill Zach, who was hired this year as head coach after previously working as an assistant coach at UCLA.

"We want to make sure we put in the right standards and expectations in the first year," Zach said. "If you don't do it right the first year, it's hard to change. I think we can do better than finishing last in conference."

Zach knows as well as anyone the challenges of steering a new program, having been previously involved in the process at Sacramento State and UCLA.

"I think the club programs at Sacramento State and UCLA had a little more infrastructure than here," Zach said. "We've solved a lot of the issues we needed to solve, and the athletic department and University have really chipped in. The entire University is aware of the team and wanting to help out in any way that they can."

Both Opra and Zach note that the transition to being a D1 sport requires more than just a change in facilities and name. Rather, it requires a whole new mindset.

"We have to make sure people have high goals," Zach said. "What might be considered a good performance for a club team that is self-governed might not be considered good for a D1 team."

"That will come with hard work and time," Opra quickly chimed in.

Zach was happy for his team to finally get a chance to compete and put their hard work to use at the Fall Classic.

"If you're going to be in a competitive sport, the ratio of training to competition is really high, but the competition portion is most enjoyable," Zach said. "It's the first time that we can actually measure ourselves against other teams and get an idea of where we are and where we want to end up."

Opra was also ready to see how she and her teammates stacked up against the competition.

"It'll be exciting to actually see where we rank," Opra said. "For a lot of us it's our first regatta, and it'll be exciting because we want to represent UP well and we will work hard to do that."

In addition to the team placing fourth in the first varsity eight competition against six other regional colleges in the Portland Fall Classic, the team placed also seventh in the second varsity eight and won the novice eight portion of the event.

"I thought that the entire team performed very well this weekend," Zach said via email. "All three boats had good races, and it was great to have so many people interested in Pilots rowing and to have some early success."