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Set to compete in Big Ten Invitational, UCLA rowing builds up speed

Members of the UCLA rowing team paddle. To prepare for the shift in conference, the Bruins are participating in the Big Ten Invitational on Friday and Saturday. (Myka Fromm/Daily Bruin)

By Lamar Tuker

April 6, 2023 2:06 p.m.

The Bruins are relying on drive and new speed to carry them through their first Big Ten competition since before 2003.

UCLA rowing (0-1) is set to compete in the Big Ten Invitational this weekend at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota, Florida. The match will serve as a preview for the team’s shift from the Pac-12 to the Big Ten in 2025, as well as a new set of competition for the Bruins.

Freshman port Emma McDonald said the meet proves an opportunity to race against other crews that aren’t located on the west coast.

“I’m super excited. I know that the girls that are going are super prepared and ready to show the Big Ten conference what we’ve got and just racing against other crews that we don’t have an opportunity to here on the west coast,” McDonald said.

Friday’s races will be against Michigan State, Central Florida, Minnesota, Iowa, Duke and Michigan. The last of those six ranked second in 2022’s Big Ten rowing championships, touting a total score of 174 points.

The Bruins’ first race starts at 6:10 am with the second varsity eight boat, followed by the varsity eight, second varsity four and varsity four boats.

In the 2017 Clemson Invitational, the Bruins’ varsity eight boat landed first place while the Knights’ boat finished a second behind. Meanwhile Minnesota’s varsity four boat finished second and UCLA came in third.

Iowa, one of UCLA’s opponents in four of the races, won five races in last season’s Pac-12 Challenge. The Hawkeyes ranked fifth in last year’s Big Ten Invitational, where their varsity four landed a win similar to the Bruins’ over the Knights.

The blue and gold’s novice eight crew will be lending its support to the team from the sidelines. McDonald and freshman starboard Rachel Katz recognize the effort the varsity boats have made in preparation for the competition.

“The rest of the boats have been working really hard at home,” Katz said. “We’re really hopeful that we’re going to go, put on some great time, and show what we’ve been working for all winter.”

The freshmen duo was a part of the novice eight crew that just secured a third-place finish at the San Diego State Classic last weekend.

On Saturday, UCLA will row against Wisconsin, Alabama and Minnesota.

Assistant coach Marija Medelinskaite said she’s excited to see the results.

“The team’s really picked up a lot of speed over the week,” Medelinskaite said.

And according to McDonald, the Bruins are ready to bring it.

“I know the girls are super prepared and ready to show the Big Ten conference what we’ve got,” McDonald said.

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