California Dreaming

View from the Mills College Boathouse

I’m safely ensconced in a coastal hideaway the day after returning from our Oakland adventure; we’re into our spring break long weekend.  A little time to breathe after six weeks of the spring training and two and a half early races.  Before I go down the road of total relaxation I think a short recap of our trip to Mills is in order.

The nine women who make up the Pioneers first varsity boat flew down to California on Friday and were greeted at the landing with the following proclamation: “you might as well stay in your seats until the bags get brought around because it’s raining pretty hard out there.”   Hard rain, the heaviest of the year in Oakland, and plenty of wind.*  Despite the challenging conditions we were able to get out for a row on Briones Reservoir Friday; we had made arrangements to use a boat owned by First Boat Racing (big thanks to Erin!) and it was perfect, almost an exact match to what we’re used to at home.  After the row, back to the hotel, showers, cleaned up, and met with the Mills College varsity boat for a joint team dinner.  A great opportunity to get to know the competition, and a good reminder that faceless adversaries on race day are in regular life excellent, fun, interesting student-athletes just like  the Lewis & Clark students I coach every day.

On to race day.  We had two races scheduled for the day; first a dual against Mills College, then a dual against University of California, Berkley.  As you may or may not know, Cal is one of the top ranked Division I programs in the country. We did not race their Varsity or their 2V (likely a blessing), but rather a boat composed of freshman and 3rd varsity rowers.  Regardless, challenging competion!

The Pioneers 1V8 against Mills.

The results of our racing are here.  We performed admirably despite, or maybe in part because of, challenging conditions. I was particularly impressed with the race against the Cal crew.  My favorite moment came at about eight hundred meters into the race; Cal had moved pretty solidly through our crew and their coxswain had reached about even with our bow seat.  But their momentum stalled, and our coxswain called an effective move, and the Pioneers started to move back.  The Cal cox turned to check her position, and I saw her do a movie-quality double take; what was this Division III, small college crew doing moving back on Cal?

I’d love to say the story has a perfect ending and we moved through for the win, but the truth is we did not.  We did, however, race a gritty, tough, and solid piece and I was truly proud of our crew for staying aggressive and holding the race to the margin they did in conditions that certainly favored the stronger, heavier boat.  All credit to Cal- their victory was fair and well earned-  but I think we were getting more speed out of the power we put in!

A great trip overall and despite the weather, the athletes stayed cheerful, upbeat, and focused throughout.  A huge thanks goes to the coach and athletes of Mills College who invited us down in the first place and worked very hard to help us have a successful and enjoyable trip.  In my coaching experience it was some of the best hospitality I’ve ever had and I look forward to returning the favor in the future.

Time to put an end to this rather over-long blog post and return to relaxation.  Back to work on Tuesday as we start our spring break practices, and then we’re on to Daffodil and into the full swing of the spring season. Looking forward to seeing what we can do.

*A short aside.  I have noticed that the past few blog posts have been heavy on the weather references.  What can I say?  It’s an outdoor sport and one of the things I really enjoy is that being on the river each day puts me in close touch with both the best and worst of the weather.  It’s something I miss when we’re out of season.  I am still human and after a couple weeks of hard rain it becomes something close to oppressive.  What we learned on the California trip is this is true both in Portland and everywhere else one travels.  We are by no means blessed with the best weather in the country, but we also have far from the worst.  We cannot change it, so we must embrace it.

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