EUGENE, Ore. – Heading into the Northwest Collegiate Rowing Conference Championship Regatta, head coach Robin Meiggs had one request for her team: to come off the water with no regrets. Humboldt State left feeling proud of its accomplishments, especially the shiny medals hanging around the Jacks’ necks.
Both Humboldt State and Western Washington finished the day with 102 points, but because the Jacks edged out the Vikings in the V8+ race, HSU is awarded the conference title.
“There was a lot of pressure coming into this weekend because of the fact that we had not seen Western Washington,” said Meiggs. “Normally we would see them in the beginning of April and be able to make adjustments, so it was a big unknown for us.”
The second varsity eight boat (Ka’ena Sado, Lauryl Rudolph, Rose Kelly, Amanda Nelson, Katie Lamke, Laurel Lueders, Allison Schroeder, Naomi Schulze, Kate Dedrick) started the races off, grabbing a second-place finish with a 7:27.06. Western Washington slightly edged out the Jacks by four seconds, coming in at 7:23.00 to take the top spot.
“We wanted to have contact in 2V8 and we did,” said Meiggs. “The push they made to stay in the race made it an exciting race.”
Despite feeling a little nervous heading into the V8+ race, the boat made their way to the starting line early to give it time to breathe. The boat’s first 15 strokes gave the Jacks a powerful start, and under coxswain Katie Harris’ guidance, HSU stayed right in the race the entire time.
“That seemed, to me, like the biggest win of the race,” said Harris. “That we started so strong and were right there with them the entire time.”
The first 500 meters had all seven boats staying close, but it was evident the race would come down between Western Washington and Humboldt State. The Vikings took the lead coming out of the 500-meter mark, but the Jacks stayed with them, never letting WWU get more than three seats ahead heading into the last 1,000 meters.
“Of course, WWU is seven-time defending national champions so we knew it would be a tough race,” said Meiggs. “We really talked about this week was on sticking to the race plan and not deviating from it regardless of where the competition was around them.”
Harris had made a deal with the team before the race, promising she would inform her team where they were if they wouldn’t look out the boat. True to their promise, Katie Lepley, Molly Fisher, Anna Wagner, Alex Torquemada, Ashley Frakes, Edi Sullivan, Jackie McPherson and Chyna Balonick kept their focus directly ahead and kicked into overdrive in the last 700 meters.
“That kind of focus and concentration was really a culmination of nine women in the power of one of what they wanted to accomplish,” said Meiggs. “I don’t think there was a dry eye in the eyes of our coaching staff when we actually saw that happen.”
Harris started the sprint early—which the team was perfectly fine with—determined to finish first and took one set every 10 strokes to finish three seconds in front of WWU at 7:01.07. The Vikings finished hard, giving the Jacks a tough competition, clocking in at 7:04.26.
The second novice four race only had two boats, so it didn’t count toward the team totals, but Humboldt State stayed in the race with WWU, finishing four seconds behind the Vikings at 8:29.28.
Humboldt State’s second varsity four boat powered to a first-place finish, crossing the finish line seven seconds before its competition at 8:03.39. Western Washington took second at 8:10.54 and Puget Sound rounded out the bronze spot with a time of 8:23.21.
Fisher and Lepley took the most commanding victory, finishing 30 seconds before their competition in the pair race. The duo clocked in at 8:26.30, followed by Lewis and Clark at 8:56.55, Western Washington at 9:13.05 and Pacific Lutheran at 9:54.51 after having to make adjustments on the course.
The novice four (Hannah Stevens, Sara Johnson, Abby Zufelt, Catt Trimingham and Jesse Merrifield) took second with a 8:14.55 time to put the Jacks’ total points at 72, tied even with Western Washington, making the last two races the deciding factors.
Western Washington took first place in the V4 race, finishing with a 8:34.10 time. Humboldt State kept the No. 2 spot, clocking in at 8:47.18 to give the Jacks 90 points, despite the wind pushing against the boat.
“The V4 was the one time we saw weather had the ability to affect our run,” said Meiggs. “We took second convincingly over the other boats, but I think we had higher expectations and hopes. Western Washington really shined, they didn’t have any blades on the water and were really clean and long, which makes a substantial difference.”
With the Jacks just four points behind WWU’s 94 points, the conference title was on the line as the novice eight took the water. HSU’s A boat took the lead in the middle of the race and held onto it, extending it to a boat length as they crossed the finish line at 8:08.30.
“We expected the N8 to be fast,” said Meiggs. “We had been behind Lewis and Clark all season long and we just decided we wanted to clean that up this week.”
Lewis and Clark had been behind the Jacks, followed by WWU, but one of Lewis and Clark’s oars got stuck in the water, turning the boat perpendicular to the course. The HSU B boat had to stop to avoid the other boat, causing the Jacks to surrender their would-be third-place finish. HSU protested on the water, which was upheld to give the Jacks the third-place medals.
Tied even at 102 points with Western Washington, the tiebreaker came down to the V8 race, giving the Jacks the conference title since they won the V8 race.
“We had been so focused on winning the Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships this year, it was stunning to win conference championships,” said Meiggs. “If the drama had not been in final race, would have won it outright. One of the rules of rowing is any time you tie, it’s your varsity eight that determines the winner. We were really excited to come out on top.”
Meiggs and her team are proud of their accomplishments, but the Jacks know there is still a bit of racing to be had. The Jacks have three days to practice before they turn around and hit the road for Sacramento for the WIRA regatta.
“It’s one of the fittest teams we’ve had,” said Meiggs. “It started with Claire Noel building the dynasty. The push started with her and every year we’ve sat down with our coaching to try to row faster.”
With their eyes on the prize, the Jacks have tasted victory and are hungry for more, hoping to keep their momentum moving forward as the season starts to wind down.