Crew Finishes Strong at Gold River

WOMEN’S CREW — They may have been up against top competition in their final race on Saturday — with little chance of earning a place in the National Division-II rowing championships —  but the UCSD women’s crew team still managed to turn in its fastest performance of the year.

At the Pacific Coast Rowing Championships on May 15, the Tritons faced an elite lineup of teams, but still came home with 26 medals among 24 members of the varsity and novice squads.

The varsity eight-boat came in at 7:22.8, recording its best time of the season. Competitors included Western Washington University, the five-time defending NCAA D-II National Champions. Though WWU broke to the front at the start of the race, the Tritons trailed close behind and showed good finishing speed in the last 500 of the 2000 meters.

“They had a terrific race and finished the season beautifully,” head coach Patti Pinkerton said. “I think we got all the speed we could get and executed our race very well. Maybe it sounds trite, but when it comes together like that, it’s just magical.”

The varsity eight has dropped its time more than 20 seconds since the start of the year. On Saturday, the boat was led by captains senior Jesi Bennett and junior Denise Kleckner and powered by seniors Lynn Nguyen, Wanda Chin, Summer Austin and Jaime Bigwood, as well as junior Megan Simmons and freshman Courtney Escajeda. Junior Katrina Paz served as coxswain.

The varsity four-boat also held its own at the season-ending tournament, coming in third behind two boats from WWU. The varsity lightweight four took home one of two Triton golds that day, topping University of Oregon by several boat lengths. Senior Brianna Patterson rowed in the stroke position for both boats, wrapping up her Triton career with two medal-winning performances.

The novice four earned a third-place medal in the race, coming in behind D-I competitors UCLA and St. Mary’s University.

Austin finished her senior year by winning the Collegiate Single Skull — a single-person race — followed by sophomore teammate Carolyn Belak.

For a squad that lacked experience at the beginning of the season, Pinkerton said the Tritons quickly learned to gel as team.

“We have a lot of young rowers, so we’ve been working hard to get everyone on the same page,” Pinkerton said. “You will always have some athletes that are better than others, but as long as everyone works as hard as they can, it’s going to come together — and we really did that.”

Because most of the team will be returning next year, Pinkerton said she is optimistic that the Tritons will continue to improve next season.

“In order to get back to the national championships, we will need to drop another 20 seconds next season, and get down to about seven minutes,” Pinkerton said. “Before, it was just theoretical; but now, the team believes that it’s possible.”

Readers can contact Liam Rose at [email protected].