At first glance, Oregon’s middle-of-the-road showing at this weekend’s Pacific Coast Racing Championships and Pac-10 regatta wasn’t all that impressive.
Out of the eight boats Oregon entered into the two days of competition, one finished second, but most were closer to last place than to first.
A further look, however, reveals a team that competed to its potential.
Because of financial constraints, the crew team is still relegated to club status, meaning it can’t use Oregon’s plush varsity training facilities. To make matters worse, most teams the Ducks competed against this weekend had varsity status and the accompanying advantages.
But despite those significant disadvantages, the rowers held their own over two days against stiff competition.
On Saturday, several Ducks racing teams competed in the Pacific Coast Rowing Championships (PCRC). Unlike the Pac-10 regatta held Sunday, the PCRC was open to any crew team on the West Coast, allowing nearly 20 varsity and club teams to participate.
The Ducks entered seven boats into the PCRC, with varying results. The four-person women’s lightweight crew finished second, the four-person women’s novice boat finished fourth, and the women’s pairing of Kendra Nyberg and Nini Valerio finished fourth.
Considering the competition, Nyberg and Valerio’s performance was probably the most impressive of all the Duck rowers.
“They work really well together,” sophomore A.J. Handly said. “They’re two of the most powerful women we have, and both have really good form.”
Although Nyberg and Valerio should be proud of their finish, coach Carly Schmidt said she was more pleased with the extra race experience the Ducks gained over the weekend.
“The placing for Saturday wasn’t as important as getting really good competition against some really good schools,” Schmidt said.
In the Pac-10 Championships on Sunday, only the men’s team was allowed to participate because of NCAA regulations. Facing a stacked field comprised of some of the best collegiate crew teams in the country, the four-person men’s boat earned a fourth place finish, nearly edging out an elite Stanford crew to finish in the top three.
“We were able to beat USC and were really close to Stanford throughout the race, which really says a lot because they (are a varsity team),” Handly said. “It really says a lot compared to past years that we were so close to a team like Stanford and that we were able to beat USC.”
That’s an even more impressive feat considering this year’s Duck squad only has four returning rowers.
“They’ve definitely come a long way,” Schmidt said. “(At the beginning of the year) we had mostly a novice team. They had to learn the technique, learn how to row together and get in really good physical condition to row at a high level.”
Although this weekend’s regatta marked the end of Oregon’s season, the clubs’ off-season promises to be a busy one.
Thanks in large part to recent cuts by Lane Transit District of a bus route that helped the crew team get to practice, an extra $5,000 will be needed to help field a competitive team next season.
“It’s going to cost us at least $5,000 to pay the city to maintain that bus line out to practice every morning,” Handly said. “We’re going to have raise an additional $5,000 for our budget, which is a third of our current budget — we’re going to have to raise that much more just to go to practice in the morning.”
Schmidt also hopes to recruit new rowers to fill out the crew roster. At the end of the year, the Ducks only had 22 rowers on their roster, most of which were female.
“I would love to see between 16 and 20 of each next year,” Schmidt said. “In the fall we had about 55 people on the team, but we train indoors all winter and some people can’t handle that and the commitment it takes.”
It all adds up to a hectic few months of recruiting and fundraising for Schmidt and the crew club leadership group.
“We’re going to be doing a lot of fundraising and recruiting at some of the freshman orientation days, so we’re hoping to have people interested in joining the team before school starts up again in the fall,” Schmidt said.