Lumberjacks Hope Early Success Is Sign Of Things To Come
Cal Poly Humboldt won three races at the Husky Open and is ranked No. 3 in the first CRCA/Pocock Division II Poll of the season. Photo by Elliott Portillo.
Cal Poly Humboldt won three races at the Husky Open and is ranked No. 3 in the first CRCA/Pocock Division II Poll of the season. Photo by Elliott Portillo.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

PORTLAND, Ore. – It has been a rough couple of years for the Cal Poly Humboldt women’s rowing program.

After the 2020 COVID-19 shutdown, Humboldt was unable to compete at anything except the GNAC Championships in 2021 thanks to COVID-related travel restrictions. And when they reached Vancouver Lake, their varsity 4+ boat hit a submerged log, ripping off the steering mechanism and relegating the Lumberjacks to an exhibition race.

Head coach Matt Weise finally started the process of putting the program back together in 2022, capped by a victory in the novice 4+ petite final and a second-place finish in the D2/D3/Club varsity 8+ grand final at the WIRA Championships. The Lumberjacks placed fourth at the GNAC Championships but were competitive in all three races.

As the 2023 season started, it looked as if Cal Poly Humboldt would face more stumbling blocks. The program’s first scheduled regatta, the Sacramento State Invite, was canceled due to too much water flowing through Lake Natoma.

When the Lumberjacks finally hit the water for competition, though, they showed that they are not the team they were the last two years. At the March 18 Hornet Invite, Humboldt scored varsity 8+ and varsity 4+ wins over Division I Saint Mary’s and posted competitive times against host Sacramento State.

But the true arrival of the team, however, was sounded at last week’s Husky Open where Cal Poly Humboldt went head-to-head against two of the conference’s other three teams. The Lumberjacks delivered two wins in the varsity 4+ races. with margins of victory of six seconds and 12 seconds over Seattle Pacific. In the varsity 8+, the Lumberjacks lost by just two seconds to Division I Portland in the first race and won the second race by 12 seconds over Seattle Pacific.

The two wins for the varsity 4+ boat earned the crew selection as the GNAC Women’s Rowing Crew of the Week. The overall performance on the Montlake Cut earned Cal Poly Humboldt selection as the GNAC Team of the Week as well the No. 3 spot in the first CRCA/Pocock Division II Coaches Poll. It is the highest ranking for Humboldt since the conference started sponsoring rowing in 2020.

“It is an excellent progression from our race last weekend at Sacramento State to this weekend in Seattle against our Division II competitors,” said Humboldt assistant coach Patrick Hyland said. “We are excited to see them against at the Covered Bridge Regatta.”

Cal Poly Humboldt will race in two more regattas before the team proves it mettle in championship competition. The Lumberjacks will host the Humboldt Regatta in Eureka, California on Saturday and will compete against Western Washington, among others, at the Covered Bridge Regatta in Dexter, Oregon on Apr. 8.

FALCONS, VIKINGS READY FOR FALCON REGATTA: For the month of March, both Seattle Pacific and Western Washington stayed close to home. Both teams opened the 2023 spring season at the PLU Invitational on Mar. 4 near Tacoma before taking part in the Husky Open last week.

The Falcons opened the season with six race victories at the PLU Open, which featured primarily Division III competition in addition to the Vikings. At the Husky Open, the Falcons picked up second-place finishes in both varsity 4+ races, finishing behind Cal Poly Humboldt both times, and also placed second to the Lumberjacks in the second varsity 8+ race of the day.

Head coach Caitlin McClain was pleased with the SPU performance. “We are proud of how the team performed today,” McClain told following the Husky Open. “All boats were composed in the higher pressure environment and put together solid back-to-back races after a hard week of training.”

For Western Washington, the Husky Open essentially served as the season opener as the program treated the PLU Invitational as preseason races. The Vikings posted third and fourth-place finishes in the two varsity 4+ races and placed fourth in their lone varsity 8+ competition of the day. The third-place finish came in the second varsity 4+ race of the day in a time of 8:37.854.

The Falcons and Vikings will square off against each other on Saturday at the Falcon Regatta along the Lake Washington Ship Canal in Seattle. The morning will feature two sessions of racing, both with varsity 8+, varsity 4+ and open 4+ components.

NO PLACE LIKE HOME FOR CENTRAL OKLAHOMA: Central Oklahoma has been the GNAC’s most active team over the first month of the season, using the opportunity to host several Division I programs on the Oklahoma River.

The Bronchos had races on the home water in each of the first three weekends in March. Central Oklahoma hosted Tulsa on Mar. 4 and Creighton on Mar. 11 before hosting Kansas, Wichita State, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma City for two days of racing last Friday and Saturday.

It was against the Shockers, Cowboys and Stars that the Bronchos saw their best success of the season thus far. The team realized first-place finishes in the first varsity 8+ race and varsity 4+ races of the day. Of the six races, UCO was first or second in four of them.

First-year head coach Jen Gilbert believes that the weekend helped set the Bronchos up for success. "We knew that Kansas would be tough and test our limits on Friday," she told, "but we had a great day Saturday. We started off the day by hosting alumni, faculty and supporters of the team for breakfast to show our appreciation for their continued support of the team both on and off the water. And we got to put multiple boats in the races too, which helps give more team members the chance to row in real races in the Spring as we continue to grow and get better on the water."

The three straight weekends of racing at home now yields to road trips for the rest of the season. The Bronchos will compete in the FIRA Championships this weekend in Sarasota, Florida. That will be followed by a trip to the SIRA Championships in Oak Ridge, Tennessee on April 14 & 15 and the WIRA Championships on Lake Natoma on Apr. 29 and 30.

IN THE POLLS: As expected, the GNAC dominated the first Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association/Pocock Division II Coaches Poll, which was released on Mar. 29. Cal Poly Humboldt was the highest-ranked GNAC team at No. 3, followed by Seattle Pacific at No. 4, Western Washington at No. 5 and Central Oklahoma at No. 6. Defending Division II champion Mercyhurst leads the poll followed by Embry-Riddle (Fla.).

GNAC CHAMPIONSHIPS: The 2023 GNAC Women’s Rowing Championships return to Dexter Lake in Dexter, Oregon on Saturday, May 13. Races will begin at 10 a.m. with the exhibition varsity 4+ race, followed by the varsity 4+ championship race at 10:10 a.m. and the varsity 8+ championship race at 10:20 a.m. Western Washington is the defending champion while Central Oklahoma won the inaugural championship regatta in 2021.