Pilots rowing with momentum after race wins, prepare for only home meet.

Pilots rowing team talk wins, new facilities and preparation for only home race.

By Antonio Acosta | April 5, 2024 3:36pm

The Pilot rowing team paddles past the St. Johns bridge during a practice on the Willamette.

Media Credit: Ryan Reynolds / The Beacon

The Pilots rowing team has had a successful start to the spring season with their varsity four securing a first place finish with a time of 7:48.9 at the Sacramento State Invite on March 9 — their first win in the varsity four since the 2019 Sacramento State Invite. The Pilots followed this with a sweep at the Tacoma Tussle, winning all three races and taking home the WCC Crew of the Month award for March for their varsity four crew. 

Now, the Pilots prepare for the Pilot/Pioneer Invite at Vancouver Lake, a regatta co-hosted by the University of Portland and Lewis and Clark College. The invite is being held Saturday, April 6 and will feature ten teams including Seattle University, University of Puget Sound and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. The Pilot/Pioneer Invite  will also serve as senior day for the Pilots, with a ceremony to follow the events. 

“I’m excited and nervous,” Madison Franco, sophomore port side rower, said. “I always get nervous before races and I feel like everyone does because we don’t have many races, especially compared to how often other sports compete.”

Due to their irregular racing schedule, it can be difficult to stay on track during the season. Making sure that the team is able to stay on track to succeed is one of the focuses of the coaching staff. Heading into the weekend, the Pilots are making sure to stay prepared and on track for their home meet.

“There’s just a greater sense of excitement and we put in a lot of work,”   Gulliver Scott, head coach of UP rowing, said. “We train throughout the school year and people tend to work over the summer and it’s all kind of leading towards the next couple months.”

Part of the Pilots’ preparation for this meet has been adapting their processes to work towards their results. Scott believes that getting in a persistent mindset is integral for walking away from the meet with a win. 

The Pilot rowing team practices on the Willamette River.
by Ryan Reynolds / The Beacon

“Figuring out how they continue to show up in a good space is important,” Scott said. “Learning how to perform at a consistent level is something that takes time and experience, so that’s another piece of this.” 

Franco also discussed her process to prepare herself mentally heading into the  home race this weekend. 

“I’ll do a lot of visualization, and I have one specific song I listened to,” Franco said. “I just imagined myself taking each stroke of the race or each stroke of the earth piece. If I’m visualizing it and I visualize something I don’t like, I stop and then go back and think myself through it until it feels right.”

The rowing team has also had a few changes recently, one of the biggest being the addition of the new boathouse in 2024 on the Willamette River. The boathouse, located on the Franz River Campus, has given the team an accessible space to store their practice equipment as well as practice. Previously, the Pilots practiced on Vancouver Lake located thirty minutes off campus.

Junior Mia Kilmister, who rows in the seventh/fifth seat on the starboard side, believes that the boathouse has been beneficial in many ways. 

“It's just a really great place to train in,” Kilmister said. “When you see it in there for training, you're already locked in. That kind of stuff is really important, especially at this level — you just need to have that kind of mindset going.”

Another essential part of collegiate-level rowing is being able to act seamlessly within the team. Each member has to time their stroke perfectly with the others to be able to produce the best result possible. In order to achieve that level of cohesion, you have to train as a team everyday. 

“Something I really value is like, you're as strong as your weakest row,” Kilmister said. “So what do you do when you've got someone who's not as strong? You make them stronger.”

According to Scott, members of the rowing team are expected to show up to practice everyday in order to build trust with their teammates. 

The Pilot rowing team practices on the Willamette River.
by Ryan Reynolds / The Beacon

“We put in a lot of time together and so over time everybody sees the work you’re doing right,” Scott said. “I think ultimately that’s where the trust comes from — being in a boat with someone, standing on the rowing machine next to someone and putting in a lot of meters together.”

As the team heads into their home meet, Scott is assessing each athlete’s performance to decide where each member will be racing. Collegiate-level rowing involves a lot of internal, meaning that boats are stacked according to performance.

“What we’ve been doing is more internally focused and figuring out who’s where,” Scott said. “Where people are along and where they’re going to end up racing, that’s really been the focus.”

Now as the team heads into their home meet at Vancouver Lake, Scott is hopeful that a lot of supporters will come out to watch the Pilots on the day of the meet. 

“One thing I would add is to check where you are,” said Scott. “You have a bunch of exciting races at Vancouver Lake on Saturday and we’d love to see more people out there.”

After extensive amounts of preparation that has paid off so far, the Pilots rowing team is ready to compete at Vancouver Lake and looks toward finishing their invitational season strong. 

Antonio Acosta is a sports reporter for The Beacon. He can be reached at acostaa26@up.edu.