Lake Lanier sits in the opposite corner of the country with the small town of Gainesville, Georgia resting on its shores. The 38,000 acre historic lake served as the proving grounds for the best in the world 20 years ago, when Gainesville hosted rowing in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Now, in 2016, it hosted the best club teams in the nation for the American Collegiate Rowing Association Regatta.
The Oregon Club Rowing program had an opportunity to prove itself against the 66 other premier club rowing teams in the country on May 27-29. After a season full of strong performances, the coaches and team members held high expectations for themselves.
The Ducks entered five boats: Men’s Novice 8, Men’s Varsity Lightweight 4, Women’s Varsity 4, Women’s Novice 4 and Women’s Varsity pair.
The highest expectations were for the Women’s Novice 4s. They qualified for Grand Finals with the fastest time — six seconds ahead of the second fastest time. In the Grand Finals, Oregon defended its qualifying position by placing first and becoming the programs first ever National Champion at the ACRAs.
The Women’s Varsity pair entered the competition with the goal of earning a medal. They succeeded as they captured bronze and finished one second behind the silver medalist.
However, the Women’s Varsity Lightweight 4’s result came with drama of its own that’s easily described as bad luck.
“There was a pleasure boat running aside the race course — just in front of the field — and that boat had a wake behind it,” explained Head Coach Marlene Miranda. “Our boat, and others as well, got caught in the wake, and it slowed them down significantly. That was a heartbreaker.”
The boat exceeded the five mile per hour limit, and its wake affected four of the eight boats in the race. The Varsity 4’s entered with the third fastest time without feeling as though they ran their best race.
Despite the heartbreak, the women’s team won the Small Boats Trophy with 147 points. Grand Valley placed second with 81.
“It was a really nice surprise,” said Miranda. “To beat a team like [Grand Valley] puts us in the top echelon … It gets our name out there, and it puts it in the forefront of the competition’s mind.”
Both men’s boats finished outside the top eight, but for the Men’s Novice 8, a 13 place finish out of 22 boats was a result the team was proud of considering they finished with a personal best time.
“We can proudly state that for at least the past 10 years, this has been the team’s best performance overall,” Miranda said.
Like all clubs, the program is paused for the summer, but for the more experienced rowers, Miranda will be sending them day-to-day workouts starting in August.
The program will attend at least two regattas in the fall, but fall is about training and development in an effort to continue the program’s momentum earned from this season. Recruiting and tabling is a priority, but Miranda expects to have an experienced crew returning for next season.
Follow Jack Butler on Twitter @Butler917