Central Oklahoma Picked To Repeat As GNAC Champions
Central Oklahoma (front) won the first GNAC Women's Rowing Championships with a score of 30 points. Seattle Pacific (right) was second with 25 points. Photo by Steve Gibbons.
Central Oklahoma (front) won the first GNAC Women's Rowing Championships with a score of 30 points. Seattle Pacific (right) was second with 25 points. Photo by Steve Gibbons.

Friday, March 4, 2022

PORTLAND, Ore. – After winning three consecutive national championships and the first GNAC women’s rowing title, Central Oklahoma is the choice of conference coaches to repeat.

The Bronchos received all four first-place votes to lead the 2022 GNAC Women’s Rowing Preseason Coaches Poll.

Central Oklahoma won the inaugural conference title on Vancouver Lake last May, sweeping both the varsity 8+ and varsity 4+ for a perfect score of 30 points. The Bronchos repeated the feat later that month in Saratoga, Florida, sweeping both grand finals for a score of 30 points and that third straight national championship trophy.

The Bronchos return four crew members from last year’s varsity 8+ and all five from the varsity 4+. The varsity 8+ crew will be led by senior Madisyn Kitchell, who was the coxswain for the national title boat in both 2019 and 2021. Kitchell was named the GNAC Coxswain of the Year and was among five UCO rowers named to the first GNAC All-Conference Team. The Bronchos also return last year’s conference Freshman and Newcomers of the Year in sophomore Faith Brooks and senior Sage Kroeker.

Other varsity 8+ returners include sophomores Hope Brooks and Kenya Holleman. Returners on the varsity 4+ include senior coxswain Yesenia Gil-Salazar, sophomore Danielle Dick, senior Alison Staley and junior Kelsey Woellmer.

In addition to agreeing on Central Oklahoma to defend the title, conference coaches agreed on the complete predicted order of finish in 2022. Seattle Pacific was picked second with 12 points, followed by Western Washington with eight points and Cal Poly Humboldt (formerly Humboldt State) with four points.

All four GNAC teams were represented in the first Pocock/College Rowing Coaches Association Division II Preseason Coaches Poll, which was released on February 17. Central Oklahoma was picked No. 1 with Seattle Pacific ranked No. 5, Western Washington No. 6 and Cal Poly Humboldt tied at No. 8.

Seattle Pacific took second at the GNAC Championships with 25 points, placing second in both the varsity 8+ and varsity 4+ finals. The Falcons return eight rowers from last year’s team including senior Jennifer Hoag, who earned All-GNAC honors last May, along with senior coxswain LeeAnn Arrington.

Hoag and Arrington are joined by fellow varsity 8+ returners junior Macie Leach and junior Jacinta Grandel. Returners from the varsity 4+ that raced at the GNAC Championships include senior Danielle Johnson, sophomore Natalie Korolenko and sophomore Hannah Miller.

Western Washington was third at the 2021 GNAC Championships after having rowed a limited schedule of just two regattas prior to the conference regatta. This year, Western Washington has five regattas scheduled for the May conference championships. The Vikings returned some solid experience on the roster led by senior Maddie Bangasser, who earned both All-GNAC and First Team All-American honors. She will be joined on the varsity 8+ by senior coxswain Adele Houston. Both athletes were among the rowers that were part of the last Western Washington team to make it to nationals in 2019.

Also among the varsity 8+ returners from last year’s conference meet is seniors Haley Hicks and Morgan MacIntyre, juniors Clarice Ruhlin-Hicks and Claudia Webster and sophomore Lindsey Froelich. Three rowers return from the varsity 4+ in seniors Ella Brinkman and Lily Bjork and junior Yuki Saburi.

Just getting back on the water will be a victory for Cal Poly Humboldt. The Lumberjacks only regatta during the COVID-19 pandemic was the 2021 GNAC Championships, which ended before it started thanks to equipment issues on the team’s four-person boat. Cal Poly Humboldt competed in one regatta during the fall season and have six regattas on the schedule before this year’s conference championships.

The Lumberjacks are led by senior Malia Seeley, who was the team’s lone All-GNAC selection last year. The team also features senior Kierstyn Hughes and junior coxswain Sophie Reich.

The 2022 championship season for GNAC teams begins this Saturday with Seattle Pacific and Western Washington competing in the PLU Invitational on American Lake in Lakewood, Washington. Central Oklahoma’s spring season commences when it hosts Creighton on the Oklahoma River on Mar. 12. Cal Poly Humboldt will open with the Sacramento State Invitational on Lake Natoma in Gold River, California on Mar. 12.

The 2022 GNAC Women’s Rowing Championships will take place on Saturday, May 14 on Dexter Lake in Dexter, Oregon, near Eugene. The GNAC Championships will be held in conjunction with the Pac-12 Conference Championships.

Rank Team (1st Place Votes) Points
1. Central Oklahoma (4) 16
2. Seattle Pacific 12
3. Western Washington 8
4. Cal Poly Humboldt 4
Points awarded on 4-3-2-1 basis.