By Ariana Gastelum
Women’s Team President 2015-2016
Persistent training has paid off, and Long Beach State Rowing successfully medaled at the American Collegiate Rowing Association (ACRA) and the Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association (WIRA).
Of the three boats that were sent to ACRA, which took place in Gainesville, Georgia on May 28 and 29, two were rewarded. The women’s lightweight four earned gold and the women’s single took silver.
The lightweight four, comprised of Rikki Oden, Zaena Guest, Emily Seierson, Jayne Goodwin and coxswain Sarah Dresser, won gold with little trouble. They finished the 2,000-meter course in 7 minutes and 57.07 seconds. Washington State University (WSU) followed approximately 20 seconds after, and Northwestern University took third, in 8 minutes and 23.19 seconds.
Their performance noticeably improved since WIRA, which took place on April 30 and May 1 in Sacramento, California. They took a silver medal, finishing in 8 minutes and 15.3 seconds, approximately nine seconds after University of California, Berkeley Lightweight Crew (Cal). WSU and Chico State University took third and fourth.
Between competitions, the four made drastic changes in their training environment and lineup. At WIRA, they raced in a bucket-rigged boat. This means seats two and three both rowed starboard side, and seats one and four rowed port.
After WIRA, the women borrowed a boat from the men’s team to practice with the Southern California Scullers Club in Huntington Harbor. They raced at ACRA in a similar boat, rigged traditionally with a starboard stroke.
“[The] four worked on improving technique: catches, better posture, more effective use of bodies,” head coach Ian Simpson noted. “The women went through a lot, they supported each other through their ups and downs, and they remained focused on performing well at the national championships.”
Brush won second place in the singles race in 8 minutes and 56.55 seconds, after University of Virginia Rowing Association who finished 12 seconds prior. University of Alabama/Huntsville Crew took third, finishing in 9 minutes.
Because Brush was training to race in a pair at WIRA, she only had time to practice in a single for four weeks. Along with the four, Brush practiced with SoCal Scullers to prepare for ACRA.
The third boat that raced in Gainesville was the men’s varsity eight, which consisted Jacob Bledsoe, Dylan Widjaja, Isaac Da Silva, Zach DeVore, Sean McCrea, Ibrahim Almaqball, Jacob Muñoz, Nate Young and coxswain Eric Oates. Of the eight rowers, four of them were novices.
“For ACRA, since medaling was never really a goal, I wanted to give everyone on the team an opportunity to compete for those spots,” head coach Anthony Chacon noted. “I am happy that the top performing athletes ended up being a mix of first year rowers, a couple second years, one third year and one forth year rower. That is very young compared to whom we faced in the varsity-eight event.”
The eight trained six days a week after WIRA. Their main focus was to cut multiple seconds off their 2k times.
At ACRA, the eight achieved fourth place out of five in the D final with a time of 6 minutes and 40.87 seconds. Wichita State University followed five seconds after. Universities of Pittsburgh, Illinois and Georgia took first, second and third.
“The guys soaked up everything I taught them and did it without complaint,” Chacon added. “They asked the right questions, and when they suffered defeat, they didn’t see it as a loss, but a gain in experience. They were hungry to learn new things and to compete even if the odds were stacked against them. I love that. It will only make them faster.”
Of the five boats that competed in the grand finals at WIRA, three received medals. The women’s double won gold, the women’s lightweight four earned silver, and the women’s pair took bronze.
Ariana Gastelum and Penelope Gallardo raced in the winning double. They finished the 2,000-meter course in 8 minutes and 35.4 seconds. WSU’s A boat followed closely, finishing less than two seconds after. Cal Berkeley ended in third, before WSU’s B boat, Chico, Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) and University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).
Gastelum and Gallardo had only practiced six times before racing at WIRA.
Brush and Lucie Webb rowed together in the pair. They finished after UCSB and Cal Berkeley, in 8 minutes and 30.6 seconds. Arizona State University finished fourth, 2.8 seconds after. University of Oregon, Humboldt State University and Chico followed.
Brush and Webb had raced together multiple times throughout the year. However, they switched boats and their lineup weeks before WIRA. Webb, who was previously stroke seat, had to adjust to looking over her shoulder and staying conscious of their point.
All members of the double, lightweight four and pair were originally supposed to race together in the varsity-eight category in addition to their small boats. Due to winds exceeding 25mph, all Saturday heats after 12:40p.m. were postponed to Sunday morning.
The varsity eight’s heat was scheduled to race at 8:10a.m. Shortly after, the double would have to race at 9:30a.m., and the pair at 9:50a.m. After considering their options, Simpson and the team ultimately decided to scratch their entry.
“If the eight had raced its heat on Sunday morning, it would have had to race at its very best to advance to the afternoon’s final,” Simpson noted. “The effort required would have severely impacted the performances in the other events and, given how close the margins were in those races, we would have probably fallen short in all our events. The choice was simple: take advantage of the opportunity to win something, versus the likelihood of achieving nothing at all. I am very pleased that every member of the WIRA varsity group departed Sacramento with a medal.”
The women’s novice four, comprised of Aimee Ramos, Hanna Anderson, Megan DeVore, Chloe Volz and coxswain Chamille Mendoza, placed fourth out of seven in grand finals after a very close race. All boats after Western Washington University finished only two to three seconds apart from each other.
Long Beach completed the course in 8 minutes and 14.6 seconds, 2.3 seconds after UCSB and 1.4 seconds before University of California, Irvine. Members of the four considered this race to be the best they performed the entire season.
The women’s novice team is coached by Alyssa Hartel. Hartel is a former rower from Fordham University’s crew team. Before that, she was rowing for Long Beach Junior Crew. This is her first year coaching the team.
“Having coached Alyssa since she was in middle school, I know her very well,” Simpson noted. “This was her first coaching experience, she learned a lot – often by having to figure it out for herself – and she is excited about returning to the team in the fall and is determined to do a great job.”
The men’s novice lightweight four, which included Jordan Baluyot, AJ Morales, Tyler Huy, Daniel Trejo and coxswain Stephanie Kirchhoff, placed fifth out of six in grand finals. They finished in 7 minutes and 52.6 seconds, approximately 14 seconds before San Diego State University.
Chacon also finished his first year coaching for Long Beach. He has also coached for North Park University, Chicago Rowing Union, University of Notre Dame and Grand Valley State University.
“I have coached other teams, but this has been a highlight year for me,” Chacon noted. “The guys soaked up everything I taught them and did it without complaint. They asked the right questions, and when they suffered defeat, they didn’t see it as a loss, but a gain in experience. They were hungry to learn new things and to compete even if the odds were stacked against them. I love that. It will only make them faster.”
Without a doubt, Long Beach worked hard for a victorious 2015-2016 season. It required athletes with persistent attendance, complete focus, open mindedness, physical and mental strength, support, competitive spirit, pain tolerance, and long-term, goal-oriented minds. For seniors Sarah Dresser, Ariana Gastelum, Jayne Goodwin, Rikki Oden, Ranita Ram, Jacob Bledsoe, Mark Saavedra, Dylan Widjaja and Nate Young, it was their last season competing for Long Beach.
Thank you teammates, coaches, family, friends and Beach Crew alumni for your support. Row Beach!
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