Good Waters Ahead

Seattle Pacific’s Rowing team has strong outlook for upcoming season

Maya Ewing, Staff Writer

It is 6 a.m., a silent, misty morning, with birds occasionally chirping, most of the campus still sleeps – except for the Seattle Pacific women’s rowing team, whose practice has just begun. Thirty-eight women prepare for their workout and the season ahead. Following a triumphant second-place finish at the GNAC Rowing Championship and ranking top six in the nation in 2022, the team has high expectations as they prepare for 2023.

“As a team, we have pretty lofty goals,” senior rower Kalais Samuelson said. “Last year we had a lot of good building blocks and just tried to put all of those into practice. A major goal for us is making it to the NCAAs again and making it onto the podium – it was really big for us last year to be able to go. Pushing ourselves one step further and making it to those top spots would be really cool for us.”

As one of the recruited freshmen on the team, Gem Gatmaytan looks forward to the season ahead to make her college rowing debut.

“It’s really big shoes to fill. As a senior in high school seeing everything on Instagram and everyone celebrating, I knew from that moment that I wanted to be there and wanted to experience that as well, and I know that this team can make it there,” Gatmaytan said. “I have only been here for a month but this team has a great attitude like grittiness and getting things done.”

The head coach of the women’s rowing team, Caitlin McClain, thinks this team is built to have major success this year.

The SPU women’s varsity 8 launches from the UW boathouse before their race in the Windermere Cup last spring. (Rio Giancarlo)

“We have had some of the best practices the last two weeks where all the different technical aspects we were working on started to click. We started to take better strokes and get in more of the volume of training that we need to be successful in the spring,” McClain said. “The athletes have been really focused and really engaged in what we are doing.”

Staying mentally sharp will be vital if the team hopes to place in the NCAAs, especially with strong competition ahead of them. Cal Poly Humboldt, University of Central Oklahoma, and the GNAC Division II Rowing Champions, Western Washington University, are some of the rivals the team hopes to stick with and beat.

“We are looking to repeat what we did last year, which is to qualify for NCAA, and a big part of being ready and fast enough is the work we are doing now. This is my third year of being the head coach, and I’m starting to see a lot of the puzzle pieces come together, and we are able to do a lot more sooner because of that,” McClain said. “I’m very optimistic that we will be strong in the spring and competitive with our region and some of our rivals. An automatic bid to NCAAs would be ideal, and, if not, we will continue to hopefully put our race results strong enough to earn one of the at-large bids.”

The SPU rowing teams varsity 8 breaks from a cheer. (Rio Giancarlo)

While many on the recently finalized roster will not compete in championship races, they will be learning how to row and working on the process. Up until the championship, everyone on the team will have a chance to compete in a race, but only those who are fast enough will be able to make the select boats that will compete in the spring. With many newcomers, the team will be relying heavily on their seniors for leadership.

“The current senior class is just a great group who have been through a lot. They started their experience during COVID-19, and this feels like the most normal year,” McClain said.
“It’s exciting to see those athletes step into leadership roles and to have embraced a coaching change during their time here. They are a very eager and motivated group who want to make this team their own and have it be a team people want to be a part of.”

The Falcons competed at the American Lake Fall Classic this past Saturday. It was their first fall tune-up of the season as they get ready for the spring. The team’s final race of the fall takes place on Nov. 6. at the Head of the Lake Regatta which will wind through the Montlake Cut, where spectators can get an up-close view of the team in action.

For more information about the regatta visit

Produced by Marissa Crane, Edited by Kenzie Shirey