Women's rowing grows in size and expectations

By The Beacon | September 12, 2012 9:00pm

The women’s rowing team gains 17 new rowers hoping the fresh faces will help build for the future by growing the program.

The women’s rowing team carries their boat back to the boathouse after a successful practice row on the Willamette River. (Giovanna Solano | THE BEACON)

By Taylor Tobin, Staff Writer tobint16@up.edu

While most students are asleep in their beds at six every morning, the women's rowing team is not.

At 6 a.m. the team of 52 women rowers board the bus to the boathouse on the Willamette River to practice as the sun rises.

Freshman Hannah Johnson finds rowing a great way to start her morning.

"It's actually really nice," Johnson said. "We get the chance to be out on the pretty water, watch the sunrise, and we get our morning started in fresh air."

Head coach Bill Zack sees rowing as great opportunity as opposed to something that should be looked at as a tough commitment.

"It seems odd to me that everybody talks about early mornings," Zack said. "There are great opportunities on the rowing team. It's not like people are forced to do it."

Zack notes that this opportunity includes workouts six days a week and training led by a team of coaches and volunteers, leading to a successful sports experience without having prior skills.

"Rowing is probably the only sport in the NCAA where somebody cannot have done it in high school and still have a successful college career," Zack said.

Senior captain Jamie Opra believes rowing is the most disciplined sport she has ever done.

"Going to bed really early and making sure you keep your teammates accountable is very important to making sure everyone is ready for practice," Opra said. "Just being with the team and knowing that we're all doing this together for one another makes [mornings] a lot easier."

This year, women were encouraged to join the team via PilotsUP. The coaches were looking for individuals who are enthusiastic and athletic, allowing their team to continue their success from last year.

The coaches' recruitment efforts paid off, and the team increased in size by 17 women.

"We have potential to be really good because the new girls are strong and they are really excited about the sport," Johnson said.

The Pilots' first competition is at Oregon State University on Oct. 13, followed by the Portland Fall Classic on Oct. 28. Their WCC season starts in March.

"I'm really excited for the season," Opra said. "We have high expectations for our team, high expectations for everyone who has just joined, and especially high expectations for the returners."

This is just the second year that UP has had a women's rowing team. The team believes that there is a new kind of vibe for this year with new standards to meet.

One standard they are striving for is having all the rowers reach a competing level.

"Eventually, we'll start mixing people together, and in a few more weeks it won't matter whether you learned to row in high school, you learn how to row here, or if you've been on the team before," Zack said. "Everybody is on the team and we'll just go from there."

The team will continue to practice hard until winter hits, the docks become icy and the weather conditions are unfit for rowing. The team trains off the water until spring.

"You can't really row in the winter," Opra said. "Spring is where we dig in and get ready for the championships."

Opra and the team hope to place well in the championships in Gold River, Calif. on May 18 next year when the Pilots have had months of training and seven competitions under their belt.

(Giovanna Solano | THE BEACON)

(Giovanna Solano | THE BEACON)

(Giovanna Solano | THE BEACON)

(Giovanna Solano | THE BEACON)

(Giovanna Solano | THE BEACON)

(Giovanna Solano | THE BEACON)

(Giovanna Solano | THE BEACON)