For the past three seasons, the number of upperclassmen on the UCLA rowing team has shrunk significantly.
The Bruins had 21 veterans in 2014, 16 in 2015 and just nine last year.
That trend has reversed this year, albeit ever so slightly, with 13 upperclassmen on the team’s 50-woman roster. However, some of the seniors who graduated after the 2016 season left roles in need of filling.
After competing in the University of California Challenge Cup and scrimmaging against Loyola Marymount, UCLA has its first dual-style regatta this weekend at home in Marina Del Rey against Stanford and San Diego State.
Two of the team’s five seniors last year – Logan Warwick and Paige Cheung – were coxswains, the pacesetters and vocal leaders at the front of the boat.
“(Warwick) was such an amazing asset to the team, not only for what she did on the water but for what she did off the water,” said coach Amy Fuller Kearney. “Almost every minute of her time here at UCLA, it was infectious.”
The team also graduated Alice White, who is now rowing for Cambridge University and was a veteran member of top varsity boats in her time at UCLA.
“It takes years to replace an athlete of that caliber,” Fuller Kearney said. “But at the same time, when she was here those four years, she really did help to develop those around her, and they’re still here every day.”
Last year, the youth of the team for Fuller Kearney wasn’t as much defined by the fact that it had only five seniors, but that nearly 50 percent of the top boats were filled with first-years.
Most of those freshmen have returned, which means combined with the loss of only five seniors, the Bruins could – in theory – continue to build off of the lineups they ran last year.
But according to Fuller Kearney, the Bruins wiped the slate clean last fall, something they do every fall to open the doors for anybody competing for those seats.
The lineups aren’t set yet, but one of the members on UCLA’s top eight last year was senior port Marie Jacquet, the team’s only All-Pac-12 selection, who was also named to the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association All Region team last year.
Jacquet’s end-of-year honors continued UCLA rowing’s 15-year streak of having at least one rower make the conference and all-region team.
But one of the teams the Bruins are up against in their official 2017 home opener this weekend returns not only two all-conference rowers, but also a first-team and two second-team All-Americans.
The Stanford Cardinal finished fourth in the nation last year behind California, Ohio State and Virginia, and early returns show they’re near the top of the field again.
In the fall’s Head of the American regatta, the Cardinal’s two top eights both finished in the top seven of a field that had Cal, USC and Washington. UCLA’s top eight, stroke-seated by Jacquet, came in ninth.
“It’s important for us to get on the race course with some real speed and test ourselves and challenge ourselves against one of the best teams in the country early in the season,” Fuller Kearney said.
The team was able to do that in March 2016, facing off with California, the school that would go on to become the national champion.
“We know they’re going to be fast, (the Cardinal) were fourth in the country last year and the last two years they’ve been quite formidable,” Fuller Kearney said. “(The early-season matchup) gives us a true look at who our competition is, what the Pac-12 competition will look like.”