Five members of the women’s rowing team and head coach John Fuchs were recently honored for their performances during the regular season.
The team will return to Lake Natoma in Gold River, California for the NCAA Division II National Championship, Friday, May 27 , through Sunday, May 29.
Seniors Kristin Foster and Alexa Thompson, sophomore Karisa Stapp and freshman Rachel Dalthorp were All-WIRA team selections. Junior Emily Bartlett was selected to the College Sports Information Directors of America’s Academic District 8 team.
Fuchs was chosen as the WIRA Women’s Coach of the year for the second time in his career, the first coming in 2011. Fuchs has also been selected as the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association NCAA II National Coach of the Year three times.
The team swept the All-Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships on April 30 through May 1 at Lake Natoma. Both the varsity 4 and 8 boats secured wins in the Grand Final.
Karisa Stapp – All-WIRA first team selection
Stapp said her selection lends itself to a bigger message for the team.
“As a team we’re all doing better and we can see our progress [individually],” Stapp said. “It’s a good feeling.”
Stapp has been rowing since her freshman year, and currently rows the two seat of the varsity 8 boat. In her time with the team, she has learned a few lessons.
“You don’t actually know how far you can push yourself until you see it,” Stapp said. “I think rowing has taught me that I’m a lot more capable than I originally thought.”
John Fuchs WIRA Women’s Coach of the Year
Fuchs has coached Western’s women’s rowing team for 18 years. During his time as head coach, the team won an incredible seven consecutive NCAA Division II National Championships from 2005-2011. Last season was the first season Western was not selected to compete for the national title since the Division II National Championship was created in 2002.
Before becoming Western’s head coach in 1999, Fuchs served as assistant coach and head coach for the men’s team. In total, he estimates he’s coached rowing for around 28 years.
Fuchs appreciates the award but thinks the credit belongs to the team.
“It feels great. It’s a reflection of the athletes,” Fuchs said. “It should be the ‘Team of the Year’ award instead of the ‘Coach of the Year’ award, really.”
Fuchs is most proud of the training and dedication from the rowers this season.
The team isn’t changing much as it looks ahead to nationals, Fuchs said.
“It’s just business as usual. It’s just polishing and rest,” Fuchs said. “A lot of teams will overwork [their rowers] this time of year, and we do the opposite. We let them rest and get ready to go.”
Rachel Dalthorp – All-WIRA first team selection
Freshman Rachel Dalthorp may have joined the team in the middle of winter quarter, but she’s not new to the sport. Dalthorp rowed for over two years prior to joining Western.
Dalthorp is aware of Western’s past success.
“We’ve kind of been in a lull the past couple of years and right now our team is definitely on the rise,” Dalthorp said.“It’s helpful that we’ve already been down to the Nationals’ race course [for WIRA].”
As a coxswain, Dalthorp’s primary role is to help guide the rowers to victory by shouting directions to them. This can include steering and helping coordinate the rhythm of the rowers.
“I’m definitely proud of all of us for what we’ve done so far this season,” Dalthorp said.
Kristin Foster – All-WIRA second team selection
Foster has been rowing for three years now, having started in her sophomore year at Western.
“When I joined rowing, I was like ‘there’s was no way I can get up at four in the morning,’ but now I love mornings,” Foster said.
This season, her primary position has been rowing in the second varsity 8 boat. Even though she is not racing at Nationals, she acknowledges her role this year has been helping the first V8 boat improve.
“Our top boats can’t get faster without other boats to race,” Foster said.
Looking forward, Foster is excited about the prospect of the team winning another national championship.
“Our program here at Western has had a long history of success and I just want to see that come back,” Foster said. “Our team this year is really strong and I’m excited to see what they’re going to do next week.”
As a senior in the program, she hopes to have inspired the younger rowers.
“[I want to] show them the same dedication to the sport that the seniors my novice year showed me,” Foster said.
Alexa Thompson – All-WIRA second team selection
Thompson has been rowing since her freshman year and is feeling nostalgic heading into nationals.
“I’ve learned more in these past four years of rowing,” Thompson said. “[I] have created some incredible relationships with some fantastic women who I know will be in my life for much longer than these couple of years I was able to row with them.”
Thompson rows in the bow seat, the part that crosses the finish line first, of the varsity 4 boat. She was enthusiastic to be selected for the award.
“Even though I may not be the biggest or the most vocal on the team, [Coach Fuchs] still sees everyone who might be more under the radar putting in the hard work – I’m really thankful for it,” Thompson said.
This is Thompson’s first time attending nationals, but she’s not letting her nerves get the best of her.
“[You have to] let that fear be there, but let it motivate you,” Thompson said.
Emily Bartlett – CoSIDA Academic District 8 team
Bartlett received the College Sports Information Directors of America’s Academic District 8 team selection, which honors both the athleticism and academic prowess of the student.
After rowing for seven years, Bartlett was grateful to have been selected for the award.
“Being someone who is going to graduate with twice as many credits as you need to graduate from Western, it’s really nice to be appreciated for that work from the athletic perspective,” Bartlett said.
Bartlett rows for the stroke seat, the last rower to cross the finish line of the V8 boat and is excited to compete in nationals.
“It doesn’t make any sense to say you’re nervous because you’re just going to make yourself more nervous. Instead, I just say that I’m excited,” Bartlett said.
Regardless of the outcome, Bartlett is focusing on the bigger picture.
“Our perspective on the team is not to be the best in Division 2 rowing,” Bartlett said. “It’s to push the limits of Division II rowing and elevate our sport.”