Rowing looks ahead to Husky Open

By The Beacon | March 28, 2012 9:00pm

Following a successful regatta against Lewis and Clark, rowing gets ready for the road

Members of the women’s rowing team compete against Lewis and Clark on March 17. The Pilots put on a strong showing, and according to Head Coach Bill Zack, they won almost every race by at least a boat-length. Women’s rowing will be competing at the Husky Open in Seattle, Wash. on Saturday. (Photo courtesy of Pilot Athletics)

By Jason Hortsch, Staff Writer --

The women's rowing team has its sights set on a strong performance in the Husky Open this weekend after a nearly flawless showing against Lewis and Clark two weeks ago.

The Husky Open, which will take place in Seattle and feature a step up in the level of competition, will be the program's first ever traditional 2,000 meter race.

"We definitely want to row with a lot of maturity and headiness," Head Coach Bill Zack said. "We want to execute a strong race plan."

This need for determining a precise strategy beforehand may surprise those unfamiliar with the sport. In contrast to the common sight during March Madness of coaches constantly yelling instructions from the sideline, rowing takes a more tennis-like approach - coaches cannot offer help during the race.

"During the race, the coxswain (the boat's leader) has 100 percent autonomy," Zack said. "It's a rule that coaches can't coach during the race."

Team captain Sarah Ryan, a senior and the only member of the team with previous collegiate experience at the University of Washington, thinks racing in the Husky Open at the beginning of the season will be great experience for the youthful team.

"It'll be a good opportunity for us to get some practice against other crews in somewhat of an informal way," Ryan said. "Our goal as a team is just to row a good, consistent race and perform up to our potential."

Her teammate, freshman Ellie Ficco agrees.

"We just want to be competitive and keep improving," Ficco said. "We are still trying to see what we look like compared to other schools, but we want to do well no matter what."

Zack is especially pleased that racing in the Husky Open will give his team experience for the Opening Day Regatta on May 5, a far larger event held on the same course. Opening Day marks the beginning of Seattle's boating season, and includes competitions dating back to 1895, making it one of the West Coast's oldest sporting events.

"It'll be nice to have a dress rehearsal," Zack said. "They'll know what the boathouse looks like, the warm-up traffic patterns and how to get on and off the docks."

Against Lewis and Clark March 17, the Pilots put on a dominating display, winning almost every race by at least a boat-length. Their first-eight boat (composed of the team's top eight members) beat Lewis and Clark's all four times, with the second-eight boat doing the same.

"I thought the boats were moving well and raced with a good amount of maturity," Zack said. "It was our team's first time racing against a non-UP boat."

Ryan thought the Pilots would perform well, but was still pleasantly surprised by just how well they did.

"I hoped we would be able to do well, and we did," Ryan said. "I was expecting that, but maybe not the margins we achieved."

While she and the team were happy about the results from the race, Ficco knows that it was just one race to start the season, and the team must keep looking forward.

"I think we did very well, and we are really excited about how we did," Ficco said. "But, we still have a lot of races left. This is only the beginning. We're still looking forward to getting better."

No matter how the rest of the season turns out, Ryan said she will consider her experience with the team a success.

"I am really happy about the enthusiasm the girls have shown for the sport," Ryan said. "That really speaks volumes to the character of the team. It's a really nice group of girls, and I'm really proud of the attitude the girls have displayed."