The UCSB men’s and women’s rowing club teams will travel this weekend to the East Coast for two of their biggest events of the year: the Dad Vail Regatta held in Philadelphia and the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference Invitational, which takes place in New Jersey.

“We’re looking forward to the competition there,” senior Alexi Lykissas said. “Dad Vail is the biggest collegiate racing event in the country.”

Santa Barbara has made a name for itself, placing third the last two years at the national championships. The Gauchos will face some tough competition with the likes of Boston College, Fordham University and Villanova University competing at both events.

“It’s tough racing against schools that can recruit, but we hold our own against them every year,” Lykissas said.

UCSB raced in its league championships, held in Sacramento last weekend. The women’s team placed 15th in the varsity lightweight eight.

“We were happy with the results, especially since our varsity squad had to row four times last weekend,” senior captain Katie Stollmeyer said. “We only have 10 varsity rowers this year, so we’ve had to become a much tighter group.”

The men’s squad placed fourth in the varsity lightweight four and came up short against Berkeley in the varsity lightweight eight by taking second.

“We were disappointed,” senior team president Dustin Bingham said about the close race against the Golden Bears. “We beat them at the Davis Invitational by a good margin, but they just had the better day. They’ve been our rivals this year, so it’s hard to take.”

This weekend will be the barometer for the Gauchos’ season, with berths to the national championships on the line for both teams. Though they may receive a bid on the basis of reputation alone, Santa Barbara could clinch another appearance with a good showing.

UCSB has steadily improved since the beginning of the year, with solid performances at the San Diego Crew Classic and the Long Beach Sprints. The top boats at San Diego were Yale and Navy, two of the strongest rowing programs in the nation.

“We were right there with Yale and Navy, which gives us a lot of confidence,” Bingham said.

Though disappointed by some close finishes – most notably the men’s two-second loss to USC and the women’s loss to Long Beach State in a dual meet at Lake Cachuma – the Gauchos have been bolstered with their recent surge.

“Seeing how we’ve improved, it gives me complete confidence about the future of this program,” Stollmeyer said.