Any boat, any seat, any day

Coach McClain, rowers discuss position assignments when rowing, success during Falcon Regatta

Dante Buell, staff writer

The SPU varsity 8+ boat rows during the Falcon Regatta at the Lake Washington Ship Canal on Saturday, April 1, 2023. (Shianne Heeraman)

Spring quarter is underway, and the Seattle Pacific University women’s rowing season is in full swing. With that, there is much focus on where rowers will be positioned in each boat. 

For true beginners to the sport, the common eight-seat boat features the following positions from front (bow) to end (stern): bow pairs, middle crew or ‘the engine room,’ the stroke, and the coxswain. With each position comes different challenges and positional responsibilities. 

Head coach of the women’s row team, Caitlin McClain, explained how successful boats are put together.  

“In general, the boats, every boat, has to have a leader who’s setting the rhythm and setting the pace of the stroke, so the thought process starts with sort of who in our crop of athletes kind of has that,” McClain explained. “Everybody has to have a level of fitness and strength, but after that’s accounted for, then, of the group of athletes that you’re looking at for a certain boat, you know who seems to move really well, really fluidly, who has pretty good technique so you can be technical but not rhythmic. So you’re trying to find all these different elements.”

McClain explained that creating lineups is a season-long process of finding and understanding the strength of different athletes. 

“We don’t really get into racing lineups until the spring. So the other practices that we’re doing were usually in what we called mixed lineup, and usually, you have a couple people who have experiences,” McClain said. “Every coach might have a different eye for where they see someone being successful. I would say once we’re in winter quarter and we have some data of what classes the different athletes will fall into, we kinda get going and practicing and if there’s any tweaks we want to do.”

With each position comes unique responsibilities during races, but every rower holds the same level of significance in winning the competition. 

Senior apparel design and apparel merchandising major Jacinta Grandel is on the rowing team and explained that different rowers have different strengths that make them better options for certain boat positions.  

“I would say that there isn’t necessarily a tough seat to fill, it’s more so where each individual rower’s strengths lie,” Grandel said. 

Grandel is in her fourth year of rowing for SPU and is currently in the stroke position. For some rowers, filling in wherever they are needed is part of the experience. 

“I really bounced around in a lot of different places for the past couple races,” Freshman Birttan Dalberg said. “I’ve stroked our JV8 and also been in six seat on the port side. It’s common for people to jump around just because we try to [follow] the motto ‘any boat, any seat, any day,’ so just being able to go where you’re needed and jump in and give it your all gives 100 percent.”

The row team put their positional success on display this past weekend as they raced in the Falcon Regatta on Saturday, April 1, out-pacing Western Washington University in every race for a clean sweep.

The SPU varsity 4= boat rows during the Falcon Regatta at the Lake Washington Ship Canal on Saturday, April 1, 2023. (Shianne Heeraman)

McClain could not have been more proud of her rowers’ success. 

“It was really fun to have every boat in the shell house, every boat in our program, do well and be able to see their hard work pay off,” McClain said. “We really try to focus on the process not the outcome, but we do believe if we follow a good process, and if everyone’s buying in and doing the work, [we] should produce good results. For me, the execution of the race is in the ability for the athletes to race twice and put together two really good performances.”

Grandel said that beating a good team like Western Washington gives her and her teammates high hopes for the rest of the season. 

“It felt really good, especially knowing that’s the fourth time that we raced them this year and that we did a clean sweep,” Grandel said. “They won at GNACs last year, and just knowing that we still have that edge on them is really fun to see. We aren’t putting them aside because they historically get stronger and stronger and fast throughout the year, so it’s now thinking the next time we see them that they could be closer to us.”

The rowing team was able to achieve the clean sweep in front of familiar faces as the Falcon Regatta took place on the Lake Washington Ship Canal. 

“I think this last one was pretty awesome because we had people from all aspects: family, friends from campus and alumni that all came back. To be able to see that happen on our home race course against a long-time rival was exciting and fun and uplifting for sure,” McClain said.