Championship Racing Recap: USC Finishes the Season Ranked #15 Nationally, Defeats Cal in the Pair at PCRC

PCRC 2-, Trent Oliver and Ryan Hasvold

PCRC 2-, Trent Oliver and Ryan Hasvold

The 2009-2010 competitive season for the Trojan Navy ended with a flurry. Or, given the inclement weather at their final race, “whirlwind” is more appropriate. Following a decisive 14-second victory over UCLA on May 8, the USC Men’s Crew headed off for our grueling schedule of championship races: both the Pacific Coast Rowing Championships (May 15) and PAC-10 Championships (May 16) in Sacramento, CA and the ACRA Club National Championships (May 22-23) in Oklahoma City, OK.

The team assembled in Sacramento on Saturday, May 16, with graduating seniors departing by 5am after graduation to meet the rest of the crew. For the Pacific Coast Rowing Championships—held the day before the PAC-10’s, featuring crews from up and down the coast—the crew entered shells in the Men’s Varsity 2-, Men’s Open 4+ and Men’s Novice 4+ as part of a training program designed to peak the next week in Oklahoma.

Right off the bat, USC saw success. In the pairs event, USC took first and second by boat lengths over the rest of the field, which included UC Irvine, Washington State, and even Cal. As a member of the winning pair with Trent Oliver, I was enormously pleased with the results of this race (not to mention winning the Cal tank, which I will never forget). This demonstrated to everyone that USC is developing its athletes just as well—if not better than—the best crews in the country, and we will continue to build on our success until we reach that level.

The two fours entered also did well in each of their races. The Novice 4+, rowing for the first time together in preparation for ACRA’s, held its own and demonstrated excellent rowing. The Varsity 4+, also rowing together for the first time, also performed well and highlighted the quality and depth of oarsmen at USC. After the racing, the Varsity 8 finished off the evening with an intense pre-race workout to prepare for the following day.

In the PAC-10 Championships, USC entered crews in both the Varsity and Novice 8 events, as well as a Varsity 4+. The Novice 8 began the morning with a very successful race, putting together a complete effort and finishing 6th. This year’s novice squad has shown great commitment to the sport and to each other, and their efforts have clearly shown through their vast improvement in the last two months. The Varsity 4 also raced well, though they finished just behind Oregon’s top 4. That 4 actually featured Melvin Ardijanto, a novice rower who has shown great improvement, in the 2 seat, and seeing the way both novice and varsity rowers could compete in the same boat was a great testament to the future growth of the program.

The Varsity 8 concluded the day, once again beating rivals UCLA. Overall, this was not the strongest race for the Varsity. The team fought through the fatigue of an intense week and weekend of training, knowing that the ultimate goal was to step up and perform at their peak for the ACRA’s. Even with this fatigue, our Varsity 8 was able to beat UCLA by a full 8 seconds and walk away proud of our progress.

While the coaches started the long haul of the boats from Sacramento to Oklahoma, the crew returned to the Port of LA to resume training for the final race, the ACRA Club National Championships. This was an excellent week of focused work, with school no longer a distraction and a hungriness to prove ourselves on the national stage. By the time we arrived in Oklahoma on Friday, we were perfectly primed and ready to race. Unfortunately, the Oklahoma weather had a different agenda. Heavy winds, ranging from 15-20mph with up to 40mph gusts, plagued the race course the entire weekend. Having spent the majority of our time training on the excellent sheltered water at the port, the constant wind threatened to add uncertainty to our racing. However, as a team we stepped up and showed that we can compete in any environment.

The three entries for the weekend were the Varsity 8, a Novice 4+ and a Varsity 4+. The Varsity 8 finished fourth in its first heat, pulling out an impressive closing sprint to beat Wichita State and Texas and advance to the semifinals in the afternoon. The Varsity 4+ faced a unique challenge: they had to race their time trial against 24 other entries with a waterlogged shell, thanks to whitecapping waves and heavy winds. Even despite this, they advanced to the lower semifinals later in the day. The Novice 4+ raced extremely well, showing strong resolve and excellent technique even in the rough conditions. They also advanced to the afternoon semifinals with a great lane position.

The afternoon semifinals proved even more challenging for the Trojan Navy, with gusty winds and whitecaps in Lane 7, which both the Varsity boats had drawn. The Varsity 8 rowed very well but were unable to overcome the additional wind resistance and rough water that plagued the outer lanes in every race of the regatta, which sent them to a lane 7 draw in the petite final. The Varsity 4 also raced well, nearly beating out the St. Mary’s College crew from an outside lane and advancing to the D final on Sunday. The Novice 4 had an excellent race, finishing among the top of the semifinal and earning a lane 3 draw for the petite final on Sunday, giving them an excellent shot at winning.

Sunday, the day of the finals, dawned with even stronger winds that started early. The Varsity 4 started off the morning with another tough battle against St. Mary’s, though they were unable to overtake them in the final sprint. The Novice 4 was up next, eager for the chance to win the petite final and claim the number 7 spot in the country. Unfortunately, they were never given the chance. Whitecapping waves across every lane and 30mph winds forced race officials to temporarily suspend all racing by 9:30am. The event resumed after the coaches and event leaders met and the wind slowed slightly, but some races—including the Novice 4+ — were cancelled entirely. While they were disappointed with not getting the chance to race, the Novice 4 were very proud of their performance and results throughout the weekend. Finally, the Varsity 8 finished off the weekend with one of the last races of the day. Again in lane 7, the Varsity 8 put forth the best combination of technique, drive, aggression and overall racing ability that we had seen all year. We led Purdue, who had the lane inside of us, all the way through the 1,000m mark, at which point the violent winds took their toll. Nevertheless, we stayed at it and put together our best race of the season, including a sprint that nearly pushed us back in front of Purdue.

This championship season was certainly a successful one for the Trojan Navy. As a graduating senior, I am proud of everything we have accomplished to this point, and I am even more eager to see just how high the program can reach in the years to come. We have already begun to see significant measures of success this season, even at the highest levels of national competition. It is unfortunate that our first trip to the ACRA National Championships included such unexpected weather, but we are proud of our efforts every step of the way. Though the results were less than we had hoped going into the regatta, we came off the water with our heads held high, knowing that we had put forth everything we had. Knowing that we held nothing back allows us to move forward. Already I can feel the momentum from next year’s rowers and see how eager they are to get even better.

Thank you so much for your support this year. We will be back in full force next fall, and we hope that you will join us. Fight On!

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