Rowing returns for redemption

SPU rowing aimed to take on NCAA Championships for first time in two years

The SPU Varsity Eight break from their huddle before carrying their boat to the water. (Rio Giancarlo)

A silent room filled with anxious rowers sat around a television screen hoping to hear their school called by the announcer. Their dreams of entering the 2022 NCAA Division II Rowing Championships were within reach, all they had to do was wait. Luckily for the Seattle Pacific University rowing team, the wait was not too long. 

Cheers erupted throughout the room as SPU was announced as one of the six Division II schools to make it through to the national championship. All their hard work on the water had paid off. 

The Falcons’ qualification for the championships was due in part to their performance at the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Championships on Saturday, May 14, where they finished in second place behind Western Washington University held at Dexter Lake in Lowell, Oregon. 

At the NCAA Championship regatta beginning on Friday, May 27, the Falcons will be joined on the water by Central Oklahoma University, Embry-Riddle University, Thomas Jefferson University, Mercyhurst University and Western Washington University. 

SPU rowing has qualified five times before this season. However, they have not managed to place in the top seeds since 2010. This year will be SPU’s first time participating since 2019 after the 2020 Championships were canceled due to the pandemic, and failing to qualify in 2021. 

SPU’s competition in 2019 ended with them placing fourth behind Western Washington University. The University of Central Oklahoma won the competition, taking home their third title. The Falcons will be competing against both schools again in this year’s NCAA Championship regatta. 

Each school will compete in one Varsity Eight race and Varsity Four race within their Division II heats. There will be two heats for both the Varsity Eight and the Varsity Four races. 

The competition on Friday, May 27, will also be host to two repechage races in the Varsity Four and Varsity Eight. These two races will give teams who barely missed the qualifying standards a chance to move on to the next round if they can meet those marks in this second chance race. 

Following the results of the heat races, on Saturday, May 28, the crews will go on to compete in the finals, which will depend on how many points they gather from their two heat races. 

Placements in these races are determined from combined results and points from the first two events, with particular focus given to the Varsity Eight results. A first-place result in the Varsity Eight will earn a team 12 points and eight points in the Varsity Four. 

Depending on how the Falcons rank in each heat, they will enter either the Petite Final or the Grand Final for both the Varsity Eight and Varsity Four. Teams who rank fifth and sixth will compete in a head-to-head race in the Petite Final, and those who are in fourth, third, second, or first will compete in the Grand Final. 

The points gained in these finals, combined with previous points acquired throughout the competition, will determine which school will be crowned NCAA Division II Champions. 

With the roster subject to change, the exact crew for each boat is uncertain. However, the Falcons’ most recent races were led by Varsity seniors LeeAnn Arrington in the Varsity Eight and Moxie McCandless in the Varsity Four. 

Unless the roster changes on Friday, May 27, Arrington will be joined in the Varsity Eight by senior Jennifer Hoag, junior Macie Leach, junior Jacinta Grandel, sophomore Natalie Korolenko, sophomore Elise Arkills, junior Kalais Samuelson, senior Danielle Johnson and sophomore Hannah Miller. 

In the Varsity Four, McCandless will be joined by sophomore Megan Popielak, senior Avalon Tarbet-Mendoza, and novice freshmen Audrey Rekedal and Kristin Grassall. 

Leading up to the national championships, three Falcons have been honored with GNAC awards. Hoag has been named GNAC rower of the year and has joined two of her teammates, Arrington and Leach, on the 11-person GNAC All-Conference Team. Hoag is the current team captain and is a vital member of the team as she sits in the stroke seat for the Varsity Eight crew. 

The Falcons hope to pull out a victory on Saturday, May 28, but they will have to fight with all their strength to beat the other five highly-qualified teams for the honor of taking home the title of national champion. Anyone could win the regatta; it all comes down to who wants it more. 

The results and recap for this regatta will come out on Tuesday, May 30 after the event takes place on Friday, May 27 and Saturday, May 28.