Celebrating successes, building for future

Women’s rowing opens season with SPU regatta, rowers pushing for stronger year

Daniel Newman, Sports Editor

an eight person team rows a boat through a canal
Calvin Quisumbing
The Women’s Rowing Team warming up before their race against the Alumni team early Saturday morning.

In the summer of 2016, the Seattle Pacific University athletic department was facing a time of major changes. When athletic director Jackson Stava was hired by administration, he inherited a rowing program without a coach. 


Before hiring Stava, administration had decided to relieve the former coach of both the men’s and women’s rowing teams, Keith Jefferson, of his duties after 26 years. 


The administration also decided to completely forgo the men’s rowing team. 


When Stava made the head coaching decision for the women’s program, it was the beginning of a new era of Falcon rowing. Stava decided to bring on Andrew Derrick from Central Oklahoma University.


The hiring of Derrick and the decision to focus solely on women’s rowing turned out to be a beautiful combination for the Falcons. Last year, in Derrick’s third year as head coach, the Falcons qualified for the NCAA Women’s Rowing Championships for the first time since 2011. 


In these championships, both the Falcons’ eight person crew and their four person crew finished in fourth place.


“We were really excited for our team members,” Derrick said. “Every team out there works really really hard, but there was something special about our team … and finishing fourth in the country was just a great cap to what was a really exciting and kind of groundbreaking season for us.” 


It was a huge performance at the championships for the Falcons, as even they themselves were not expecting that high of a placement.


Assistant coach Patrick Pappalardo said that the team outperformed their expectations last year, but also said that the team isn’t wanting to be complacent and stop trying to achieve bigger things. Pappalardo said that the unofficial motto for the team this year is “Podium 2020,” as the team wants to be one of the top two standing on the podium at the National Championships in Oak Ridge, Tennessee at the end of the season. 


But in order to get to the end of the season, the Falcons had to begin somewhere. The Falcons opened up their 2020 season with a short race as the novice crew took on a team of alumni. 


It was a clear and quiet Saturday morning as the two 60-foot long boats glided across the canal. The Alumni team got off to a quick start, but it soon became clear that they were no match for the novice team, who rowed past them and finished the 1,000 meter race in first. 


“This is just a chance for some of our youngest team members to connect with some of our former team members … and just a little taste of — on a very lowkey level — of what it’s going to be like to line up against other teams,” Derrick said. 


After the race, both teams carried their boats to the shellhouse in the basement of Royal Brougham Pavilion, while athletes, alumni and family members enjoyed a morning breakfast of muffins, pastries and coffee. 


While the crowd mingled and munched, both Derrick and Stava addressed the crowd for a short while. 


“It’s been incredible to watch the culture of the program grow and change. Obviously, we’re thrilled about the future,” Stava said while talking to the crowd.


But Stava isn’t only setting his focus on championships.


“Certainly, we hope that we can bring some hardware home from a championship regatta. We hope that we’re really successful but, at the end of the day, what I’m really excited about is — I know for those young women who are seniors on the team now — regardless of how the end of the year plays out, we’re gonna have succeeded because of who these young women are,” Stava continued. 


The Falcons brought back almost their entire crew of rowers from last year’s championship performance, and most of these women are now seniors. 


The season will officially kick off Feb. 21 and 22, as the Falcons will take on Gonzaga University at the canal. Then, the teams will sail through competitions, including one against last year’s champion, Central Oklahoma University on Mar. 14, the San Diego Crew Classic April 4-5 and the Windermere Cup at the University of Washington May 2 — all culminating in the GNAC championship race May 16 in Gold River, California


This will be the first time the GNAC conference has offered a championship for the conference. Win that race, and the Falcons will be one step closer to their goal of hitting the podium in 2020.  


The four teams in the new conference are Western Washington University, Central Oklahoma University, Humboldt State University and SPU.