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UCLA rowing veterans strive for legacy, increase mileage and grit ahead of season

A UCLA rowing eight-boat paddles on the water. The Bruins are gliding into their 2024 season with an exhibition match against the Golden Bears on Saturday. (Myka Fromm/Photo editor)

By Ira Gorawara

Feb. 24, 2024 1:14 p.m.

Most athletes aspire to sculpt a lasting imprint on their programs.

Olivia Caesar is no exception.

“In everything that I’m doing, am I leaving this place better than when I got here?” the graduate student port said. “Maybe I don’t reap the rewards of something that we change now but the athletes that come after me and the rest of the girls on the team will see that effect.”

Caesar’s attempt to leave a legacy will continue Saturday when UCLA rowing meets California in an exhibition match in Briones Hills, California. The regatta marks the team’s first dual race, one of only three this season.

The Bruins’ encounter against the Golden Bears will serve as a preparatory race for their season-opener against the Trojans. After a pair of consecutive defeats in the annual premiere, UCLA is on the brink of potentially reshaping the narrative against its crosstown foes.

With a hefty order on the orbit, the Bruins have set their goals clear, both in and out of the water.

“The championship mindset includes adjustment at every level, whether it’s training, technique, use of time, we looked at everything and made our adjustments,” said coach Previn Chandraratna.

UCLA competed in the Connor’s Erg Challenge for the first time Feb. 14 – a rowing challenge aimed to raise awareness for children with brain cancer. The endeavor entailed rowing one million meters in just one practice on the ergs.

The feat was integral to the Bruins’ objective on the water this year – to increase their mileage during training.

“The biggest difference this season, we’ve added in a lot more mileage,” Caesar said. “We haven’t had crazy successful seasons recently so we were like, ‘What is the dramatic thing that we need to do differently?’ And it felt like other programs were doing a lot more mileage than us.”

In Chandraratna’s second year since being promoted from interim to head coach, fitness has been at the forefront of his agenda as he ensures his squad rows a minimum of 20 kilometers each practice, Caesar said.

UCLA crossed in fourth or worse in each event of last season’s Pac-12 championships, culminating in a last-place finish overall. It fell to Stanford – the eventual national champions – in each race. And to dismantle that script, mileage will be instrumental to the Bruins.

The Cardinal glide into their boats at about 6:10 a.m. six days a week, after which they routinely complete 25,000 meters through the session.

Beyond the water, the Bruins have struck an impenetrable camaraderie among a 66-woman squad, particularly when 40 of those are freshmen or sophomores in the program.

“We like each other,” Caesar said. “That can mean so much in a sport like rowing where you really have to rely on every single person in the boat. You’ve got to, to some extent, pull for the other people in the boat.”

Port Mia Glinn, now in her fourth year competing for the squad’s varsity crews, strives to foster an atmosphere of encouragement and optimism.

“I’ve been trying to focus on keeping a really positive environment on the team,” the senior said. “I try to keep a positive outlook and hope that that transfers to other girls on the team and serves as a good example for others.”

Both Glinn and Caesar featured in the team’s varsity eight lineup at Head of the American – its sole race of the fall. The veterans spearheaded UCLA’s effort to top the podium with a final time of 16:49.40 clip, besting crews from Cal and Oregon State.

Caesar and fellow graduate student, starboard Ella Harris, clinched a bronze medal in the 2-.

Chandraratna said the team’s success this season hinges on the leadership of its seasoned rowers.

“They’ve really set the standard in terms of culture, work ethic and approach on race day,” Chandraratna said. “We definitely see those athletes playing a major role this season.”

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Ira Gorawara | Sports editor
Gorawara is the 2024-2025 Sports editor on the football, men’s basketball and NIL beats and a Copy contributor. She was previously an assistant Sports editor on the men’s volleyball, men’s tennis, women’s volleyball and rowing beats and a contributor on the men’s volleyball and rowing beats. She is a rising third-year economics and communication student minoring in professional writing from Hong Kong.
Gorawara is the 2024-2025 Sports editor on the football, men’s basketball and NIL beats and a Copy contributor. She was previously an assistant Sports editor on the men’s volleyball, men’s tennis, women’s volleyball and rowing beats and a contributor on the men’s volleyball and rowing beats. She is a rising third-year economics and communication student minoring in professional writing from Hong Kong.
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