The Western Washington University women's rowing team competed in the Opening Day Regatta as part of the Windermere Cup, a world-renowned event in which some of the best teams globally are invited to compete.
The Vikings brought two varsity 8+ teams who competed in the Collegiate Open 8 and the Cascade Cup. The race spans from Lake Washington to the Montlake Cut to the finish line at the mouth of Portage Bay. Viewers crowded along the edges of the water, cheering the rowers along.
The second varsity eight lineup placed last (7:27.927) in the Collegiate Open 8, just trailing Division I crews Washington (7:07.005) and Gonzaga (7:23.293). Despite the loss, regattas such as this one are beneficial to a crew’s growth due to racing high-level competition.
“Since UW is a DI school, it’s very good for us to have them to compare ourselves to. We know we won’t be quite at their race level, but it’s something to work towards,” said rower Mia Marie Knipe. Knipe is a freshman rower who joined the team in the fall. “It’s good to have someone who pushes you to get better.”
In the Cascade Cup, the Vikings varsity 8+ faced Seattle Pacific University, Seattle University and the University of Washington. Though they started off strong, they clashed oars with UW, lost momentum and had to spend the rest of the race recovering from that setback. They fell short of the comeback attempt, with UW’s second varsity eight team placing first (6:45.976), followed by SPU (7:00.513), Seattle University (7:04.931) and Western (7:05.251.)
Freshman coxswain Emma Hopkins did not compete on Saturday but viewed the race from the shore. “They were holding close to UW there for a while,” said Hopskins. “The collision happened, and it was kind of hard to come back.”
Hopkins' job as coxswain is to steer the boat and give directions and orders to the crew. All previous senior coxswains have graduated, so younger rowers such as Hopkins are stepping into those roles.
With the Great Northwest Athletic Conference championships just around the corner, the team is preparing to face tough competition in Oregon.
“We're at the point where there's nothing more physically we can do to get fitter or more in shape. Now, we have to work on our mentality," said senior rower Yuki Saburi. “A big thing about rowing in a 2k is that it is physically very painful. Keeping the mentality of ‘I can do this, we’ll finish this strong’ when you’re working your body to the limit is something that we need to stay on top of.”
The Vikings women's rowing team has eight national championship titles and is ranked No. 6 nationally. They have left their mark as being one of the strongest rowing crews in the country.
This season shows good promise for continuing that success, but one difficulty the crew is facing right now is introducing novice rowers into previous rowers’ positions.
“It’s been a big learning curve for a lot of them, but they are honestly doing so much better than me, my coaches and the other upperclassmen could have hoped for," Saburi said. "I’m really proud of them and [I’m] glad that they’ve done so well.”
Even with novices, the crew has bonded since the start of the season in March and has formed strong chemistry.
“We see each other in our rawest forms,” Knipe said. “Chemistry is one of the most important things — I'd say about 90%," Knipe said. "The most important thing when you step into a boat is that you need to know that you each have each other's back."
The Vikings will bring two varsity four teams and a varsity eight team to the GNAC Championships on May 13 at Dexter Lake in Lowell, Oregon. Their competition in each race is Humboldt, Seattle Pacific University and Central Oklahoma University.
Genesi Funston is a sports reporter for The Front. She is working towards a degree in public relations journalism. In her free, time she loves to run, read, play basketball and listen to rap music. You can reach her at email@example.com.