2012 Preview: Experienced Vikings seek eighth straight national title
March 16, 2012
BELLINGHAM, Wash. - The run of success by the Western Washington University women's rowing team has been unprecedented. Seven consecutive NCAA Division II National Championships.
And the chase for an eighth will be pursued by the most experienced crew the Vikings have ever put together.
Some 12 seniors, including eight who have experience in three national championship regattas, return for WWU, which won both the eight and four grand finals at nationals last year in claiming the team title.
"It's the biggest senior class we've had in recent memory," said coach John Fuchs. "We have 12 people who have stuck with the program into their fourth year. Usually it's four or five, maybe six. They've just been a strong group from the beginning."
Six rowers return from last year's national lineup in the varsity eight, three in the varsity four, as well as both alternates. Six of them are seniors who have been to nationals all three years.
The motor of that group is senior Jean Piette (Vancouver/Columbia River), who will move from the No.6 seat to stroke in the first eight, a seat Fuchs says Piette "has been waiting for a shot at." She'll pair with Stephanie Bluhm (Auburn/Auburn Mountain View), the lone junior in the boat.
The rest of the varsity eight are all seniors. Carson McPherson-Krutzky (Seattle/Garfield), Katie Woolsey (North Bend/Mount Si), team captain Megan Northey (Brier/King's), and Kate Berni (Silverdale/Central Kitsap) have all made three national appearances, each of them being in the varsity eight last year.
They'll be joined in the top boat by seniors Kelsey Baker (Gig Harbor) and Alyssa Dewey (Bend, OR/Mountain View), who both rowed in the four at nationals last year. The coxswain is yet another senior - Alix Crilly (Wenatchee).
WWU has traditionally rowed a second eight early in the season before settling on the four required at nationals, and this year is no exception. In fact, Fuchs has great confidence in the entire second eight.
"We were able to put 16 people in two boats and let them go head-to-head right away, so they've raced each other throughout the fall and winter" said Fuchs. "It's tough just to get into the top 16 right now."
Seniors Nolan Winger (Tracyton/Central Kitsap) and Hannah Gallagher (Seattle/Garfield) have both made the trip to nationals three times. Gallagher has been in the four twice and was an alternate last year, while Winger has the unusual distinction of being one of the two alternates three straight years.
They'll be joined by seniors Jordan Uecker (Bellingahm/Sehome) and Lauren Fleming (Bainbridge Island); junior Maddy Hillier (Sedro-Woolley), and sophomores Christina Henie (Chugiak, AK), Cosette Still (Lake Forest Park/Blanchet) and Olivia Rowland (Seattle/Holy Names). The coxswain is freshman Maeghan Callegeri (Kirkland/Lake Washington), who has experience with the Sammamish Rowing Club.
"I'm not convinced this is our final lineup," said Fuchs. "We'll do this the first two events, but then we have a three-week gap before the conference regatta, and the kids in the second eight will have a shot to move up. That's how close it is."
The NCAA Rowing Championships are at Mercer, New Jersey, on May 25-27. But Fuchs pointed out there are other key markers that must be dealt with first, in particular getting the national bid from the West Region, a task largely gained through the Western Intercollegiate Rowing Championships at Gold River, Calif., on April 28-29.
Another highlight is an early-season visit to San Diego, where the Vikings will compete in the San Diego Crew Classic on Mar.31 and April 1, with the varsity eight in the California Cup against a field made up mostly of NCAA I schools including the likes of Duke and Alabama, and the second eight competing in the NCAA II/III event. The trip south will be capped by a dual meet with UC San Diego on April 2.
WWU opens its season at the Cascade Sprints on March 24 at American Lake near Tacoma.
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