At 6:00a.m. on a weekday, most of us at Lewis and Clark College remain hidden under a warm protective layer of blankets and top sheet, dreading the inevitable. The Pioneers Rowing team, on the other hand, are different. While we are fighting daybreak, you can find them perfecting their technique atop the choppy winter waters of the Willamette River, rain or shine. Following a difficult Fall, the distance race portion of their season, the Pio’s are looking to turn things around in the Spring.
“We have had really strong winter workouts, with a good culture of lifting and erging,” said Samuel Makikalli ’18 “I have been really impressed with how we have encouraged each other and grown as a team.”
With numerous rowers either studying abroad or injured, the team is a unique mix of experience and youthful enthusiasm. This poses as many questions as answers.
On the women’s side, the Pio’s will attempt to improve on a top 15 Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association ranking and a second-place finish in the Northwest Conference. The Pioneers also defeated Puget Sound in the women’s varsity eight last season, something the team hadn’t done since 2006. The departures of All-American Katja Putzke and All-Northwest-Conference team member Madi Hyde ’16 will put pressure on a young group to come together quickly. Fortunately for them, some of the new members are already pulling their weight—literally. During offseason workouts Ryan LaVigne ’18 set the school’s 5k record on the ergometer, an indoor rowing machine, surpassing Putzke’s previous record by 14 seconds. Improvement both in the gym and on the water will be key if the young Pios are going to keep the success coming.
On the men’s side, last spring ended in disappointment with an illness to a key member of the varsity eight limiting their success at the Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships. Going into this season, the bitter disappointment of last year serves as motivation for a group that is dealing with injuries and key members studying abroad. As a result, Head Crew Coach Sam Taylor has made the difficult decision to move away from the traditional varsity eight race and instead focus resources on the varsity four, a decision that will help highlight the strengths of key returners Andrew Cavanaugh ’17 and Griffin Siadak ’17. Both of them have been highlighted by their teammates as the strongest and most technically proficient rowers on the men’s side. With these changes being made, the Pio’s have set lofty goals for the upcoming season.
“Our goal is to get the varsity four into the grand final, and varsity 2 into a medal position at this year’s WIRA” Makikalli explained. “To do that we have to ensure that we are the strongest we can be and that our technique is the best it can be”
The Pioneers’ first step toward achieving those goals will be the Hagg Lake Invitational in Hagg Lake, Ore. on March 18, 2017.