The University of Oregon rowing club is coming off a strong finish at the Pac-12 Championships, in which the men’s varsity 4 took bronze and men’s novice 8 finished second in the club division and fifth overall.
Now, the team’s sights are set on the 2016 American Collegiate Rowing Association Championships, held May 28 and 29th in Gainesville, Georgia.
Oregon head coach Marlene Kindorf said the team is rested and healthy in anticipation of the national regatta.
“Everybody’s in good spirits, everybody’s feeling good,” Kindorf said. “This year, each squad has a priority boat that’s looking really good.”
The team is bringing a total of six boats and 31 student-athletes — 19 men and 12 women — to ACRAs.
Its categorization as a “club” team, however, is simply a label to UO Rowing, which used the hashtag #ClubMeansNothing on its Facebook page. The team competed against Division I, II and III teams at various regattas throughout the regular season, and managed to defeat quite a few of them.
Women’s varsity 4 defeated Oregon State, Central Florida and Seattle Pacific at the Oregon State Classic, as well as Humboldt State, Portland and St. Mary’s at the Collegiate Covered Bridge Regatta.
It’s tough to compete against these well-organized varsity teams, which have coaching stability, resources and recruitment, Kindorf said.
Rower Emi Purice said the “biggest stigma” about club sports is that they’re just for hanging out and having fun.
“Club is competitive. The only thing that separates club from D-I is funding,” Purice said. “As a club, we do compete against D-I teams and we do really well against them.”
Historically UO Rowing’s performance at ACRAs has consistently improved. The men have taken home a silver medal in singles and bronze medal in novice 4, and the women have won a silver medal in novice 8 and a bronze medal in varsity 4. In the past two years, the team has medaled one boat per year.
UO Rowing made great strides at ACRAs last year, qualifying all five of its boats for the grand finals and winning one medal.
“If we can have similar results to that or better — if we can get all of our boats this year into grand finals and come home with at least one medal — that’s a consistency and solid improvement for the team again,” Kindorf said.
The team will arrive in Gainesville Thursday morning and will be at the race course first thing Friday morning to offload its equipment and hold a practice workout on the water, which it uses to acclimate itself to the time change, heat, humidity and new venue. Racing begins at 8:00 a.m. Saturday morning with the women’s pair; all the boats will have one preliminary heat in the morning.
Depending on their finishes on the preliminary heats, the teams will advance to either the grand finals Sunday or a repechage Saturday afternoon, in which they will get another chance to qualify for the grand finals. The men’s varsity 4 has one extra step — a semifinal — before it can get to the grand finals. A team can compete in as few as two races and as many as four — two Saturday and two Sunday.
“We really hope to be bringing home some hardware and some more glory for U of O and U of O club sports,” Kindorf said. “We’re very excited and we’re ready.”
Follow Kenny Jacoby on Twitter @KennyJacoby