This past Sunday at Marina Del Rey, UCLA rowing hosted No. 13 USC in the schools’ annual dual meet. The Trojans, by virtue of their ranking, came in as the favored team. The Bruins, however, went toe-to-toe with their opponents, claiming victory in two of the four races at the dual meet.
The second varsity eight won their race by over seven seconds. The other win was by default, as USC did not field a third varsity eight.
Despite losing, the first varsity eight boat built on its victory in the B group race at the previous week’s Clemson Invitational and finished less than two seconds behind USC’s.
“We were really close to the varsity eight,” coach Amy Fuller Kearney said. “It was fun for us to make that a good race.”
Fuller Kearney believes the positive turnout came about because of the Bruins’ busy schedule.
“Our racing schedule affords us a lot of opportunities, which are paying off,” Fuller Kearney said. “As a young squad, we’re becoming much savvier on the race course and be more relaxed and row more efficiently.”
The coaches have also been experimenting with the lineups lately, especially in the second varsity eight boat. Freshman Quincey Mulligan, who was in the stroke seat for every previous meet this season, swapped places with junior Jasmine English, the regular two seat, for the USC showdown.
“We were really trying to get a little more pop in the two seat. We have a smooth stroke up there in Quincey Mulligan, and we wanted to get a little more power on the drives,” Fuller Kearney said. “We thought it was a good change. Quincey did a good job of backing up to the two seat because she’s a smooth, efficient, technical rower.”
In the first varsity eight boat, the adjustment was a new coxswain. Against USC, sophomore Gray Strandberg, the boat’s regular coxswain, traded places with the second varsity eight’s coxswain, sophomore Clare Fina.
With the Pac-12 rowing championship less than two weeks away, however, the lineup juggling appears to be coming to an end.
“(The coaches) have set on a core group of rowers right now,” Strandberg said. “There’s a core seven with one, maybe, who will get switched in or out, but right now it’s pretty consistent.”
Fuller Kearney wants that core to have the ability to work as a unit to prepare for the coming weeks.
“We want to give the lineups time to practice together,” Fuller Kearney said.
The Bruins, who sit just outside of the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association’s top 20 poll, know they need to continue their upward trajectory if they want a spot in the NCAA championship at the end of May.
“I feel good about (an at-large bid),” Fuller Kearney said. “The Pac-12 is a tough conference, and I think we proved last weekend that we’re a solid team. I think we have a good shot.”