The men’s and women’s crew teams competed this past weekend at the 31st San Diego Crew Classic held at Mission Bay.

The men’s lightweight eight placed fourth in the collegiate division behind league rivals Cal and UC Davis, as well as visiting Purdue. The SD Classic was the second race of the season for the relatively young Gauchos.

“I thought we did pretty well, but we have lots of room for improvement,” senior stroke seat Dustin Gibbs said.

Though disappointed, Santa Barbara’s men still came away with positives from the event. As one of the premier rowing regattas in the nation, teams from all over the country flock to San Diego each year to get a good look at the competition. The Gauchos got an early season preview of their league rivals as well as some of the East Coast-based programs they will be competing against later on in Spring when they head to Worcester, Mass. for the Eastern College Athletic Conference’s National Invitational Rowing Championship.

“It was a good racing experience for all our crews. This upcoming weekend will be our only one for a while, so it was good to just get out there and see how we matched up,” men’s Head Coach Rick Brown said.

Another positive for the men was the surprise return of Novice Coach Dustin Bingham. Bingham, who had been in a coma for over two weeks during Winter Break after a skiing accident, had just recently returned to California from rehabilitation in Connecticut. His swift recovery has been a happy surprise for the rowing program, especially for the novice men he had coached.

“We were all excited to see [Bingham]. No one really knew he was going to be there,” Gibbs said. “His recovery has just been amazing.”

The women’s eight took fourth despite having to compete in the open division. The traditional collegiate race, Cal Cup, had all 21 of its spots filled up out of a list of dozens of schools. Santa Barbara was forced to race in the open heat, where it faced clubs, collegiate alumni and the 1996 Women’s Olympic Team, led by former Gaucho and current UCLA Head Coach Amy Fuller.

“It was a thrill for us to compete against Amy’s Olympic team. We had no idea what to expect, so for us to make the grand final is a big step,” women’s Head Coach Mike Homes said.

The women are also fairly young, with only two four-year rowers in the boat. Their performance opened a many eyes in the collegiate division, especially when the women finished nine-tenths of a second behind perennial powerhouse University of San Diego.

“I think we impressed some people who were just assuming we’d get creamed. We definitely brought it all together,” senior stroke seat Corrine Servis said.

UCSB’s next event will take place in Marina del Rey on April 17. Both the men and women will get a good look at league rivals Loyola Marymount and Sacramento State in preparation for the Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships.