UCSB men’s and women’s crew both rowed in the West Intercollegiate Rowing Association Regatta at Lake Natoma in Sacramento two weekends ago and emerged highly decorated, with medals across the board for both teams.

As well as winning gold medals in five events, the men’s crew was also named overall champions for the third year running. In addition, men’s Head Coach Desmond Stahl was voted WIRA Coach of the Year.

“The focus we had going into our training, and the loss we suffered last year in the same race really fueled some of the guys,” senior varsity rower Ryan Dias said. “We wanted to prove something to ourselves, as well as the west coast, and I feel we did.”

The women also medaled four times: silver in the second varsity boat, silver and bronze in the second novice boat and bronze in the novice boat.

The WIRA Regatta encompassed other colleges and universities from around the West Coast, including schools from around California, Oregon, Washington and Arizona.

Santa Barbara’s crew team has been training since Fall Quarter and put in many early and long hours to prepare for the spring season.

“We are all very competitive with each other but supportive as well,” senior varsity coxswain Wendy Chan said. “Our coach has always told us that races are won in the winter.  And after four long years of hard work in the winter, we are starting to see results in the spring.”

The road to becoming nationally recognized and successful has been long and difficult for many past and present UCSB rowers, some of whom were not able to experience the outcome that their hard work and dedication has produced.

Others, like graduate student and fifth-year rower Andrew Verdegaal have seen the team grow from a small six-person varsity team to a full team across all levels of competition like it is today.

“It’s crazy to see the progress the team has made in just four short years,” Verdegaal said. “Our new coach has raised this team to its full potential; he makes us want to get better every year.”

Though those UCSB rowing alumni were unable to experience the victory at the 2014 WIRA competition, their legacies were not easily forgotten, as many current crew members reflected on the hard work that they and many others had put in to get the team to that position.

“It was exhilarating, but I can go so far to say it was an honor,” senior varsity rower Nate Clark said. “There were so many rowers that came before us that didn’t get to experience this, but without them, we wouldn’t be able to experience it at all.”

The men’s team will travel to Gold River on May 17 for its next competition and both teams will be in action on May 24-25 for the ACRA Club National Championships in Gainesville, Georgia.


A version of this article appeared on page 6 of May 4th’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.

Photo courtesy of Max Mercado.