The Bruins will rely on the experience of their older rowers this season.
UCLA rowing opened its season in the weekend with a meet against Stanford and San Diego State, coming away with two wins and one second-place finish.
The second varsity eight boat was able to beat out Stanford by over two seconds, winning the race with a time of 7:06.10 to the Cardinal’s 7:08.56. Because Stanford finished last season ranked No. 6 in the nation, the victory was an indicator of encouraging prospects for the Bruins this season.
The Bruins will be relying on the experience of an older team in 2018, said coach Amy Fuller Kearney. She has been letting the team make more racing decisions, giving it more responsibilities.
“I think a lot of what we’re trying to focus on is just empowerment, and letting all the girls with experience use that experience,” Fuller Kearney said. “I guess the biggest thing that I’ve done is I let both of the boats decide what their race strategy is. They know how fast they have to be, they know what the goals are for speed, but how they’re going to get there really comes from within.”
Fuller Kearney said that having an older team this year will benefit this work ethic, because the experience will help the team make racing decisions under pressure.
“In rowing, it’s really unique that once they launch we don’t get to coach them,” Fuller Kearney said. “They have to know when it’s going well, they have to know how to problem-solve, they have to know how to make changes that are going to make them go faster. I think that’s an advantage when you have more upperclassmen, and this is the first time in years that we’ve had that.”
Along with a core of eight returning seniors, the Bruins will benefit from contributions from experienced juniors, such as varsity one port Saskia Budgett and varsity one starboard Kyra Edwards, both of whom rowed for Great Britain’s national team last summer in the 2017 World Rowing Under 23 Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, and helped the team win a gold medal.
“It was a great experience, since we’ve both been rowing for the national team for a few years,” Edwards said. “It’s just really cool to go to a world stage and have so much talent everywhere, and be able to race the best people in the world.”
Budgett said that competing at this high level helped her gain experience, and taught her about the importance of a strong connection in the team.
“For me, I think just the trust in the boat is what can make or break it,” Budgett said. “Just having that trust and having that connection between the people in the boat can just make so much speed, and I think our squad is just building that day by day.”
Last season, the Bruins finished sixth in the Pac-12 championships and missed out on one of 22 spots for the NCAA championships. In order for this season’s team to improve on last year’s finish, Budgett said that it will have to expand on the success of this opening meet.
“It’s definitely something that we can build on, and we have a lot more coming, I’d say,” Budgett said.