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UCLA rowing team races in NCAA Championship for the first time

The UCLA rowing team is not used to racing so late in the postseason.

Selected for the NCAA Championship for the first time in team history, the No. 13 Bruins will pick up their oars one final time this weekend to compete for a national title at the Sacramento State Aquatic Center.

UCLA will compete with three boats at the championships: the first and second varsity eight and the varsity four. The winner is determined by a weighted system, in which the first varsity eight earns more points for a top finish than the other two boats.

Despite its relative inexperience, UCLA refuses to be intimidated by the tough competition this weekend.

“We are all just going to come out, put everything on the line and compete to win as the underdog,” said senior varsity eight stroke seat Lauren Counter.

Veteran teams are returning to the championships, including Pac-10 champion and third-ranked California, defending national champion Stanford, No. 6 Brown and No. 2 Princeton, who will compete against the Bruins’ first varsity eight in today’s preliminary heats. With six of the total 16 teams coming from the Pac-10, the Bruins will be looking to improve on their solid fifth-place performance at the Pac-10 Championships two weekends ago. The team had two top-five finishes. The varsity four beat the Cardinal for third place, and the first varsity eight took fourth place.

“There was a couple of awesome performances,” coach Amy Fuller Kearney said about the Bruins’ Pac-10 Championships appearance. “The varsity four did a great job by beating Stanford at the end and solidifying the bronze medal. That is what we need to do this weekend.”

While the varsity four is looking to continue its success from Pac-10s, the second varsity eight is seeking redemption after a disappointing sixth place finish.

“The good news is that they will get a chance to go to the NCAAs to really bring it all out there,” Fuller Kearney said. “Hopefully they will build on their hard work this year because there have been some amazing improvements.”

With two weeks to train before the NCAA Championships, productive practices have been key for the Bruins, who aim to replicate their performances during training this weekend.

“We want to be able to fulfill the potential we have realized in practice,” Counter said. “We need to row like we have been training to be successful at nationals.”

Kearney agreed with Counter, further emphasizing the importance of applying what the team has learned throughout the year in training to the competition.

“I feel that we are just starting to learn how to push ourselves, which is exciting,” she said. “I really hope everything the team has learned in practice comes together one last time this season.”

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