By Rachel Stone
The Lewis & Clark men’s and women’s rowing teams have already achieved impressive results during the beginning of their spring season. The teams took to the Willamette River on March 10 with a scrimmage against Pacific University and Southern Oregon University. Each spring begins with an informal scrimmage that helps the teams prepare for upcoming competition.
“Some boats did well, some boats didn’t do well,” Coach Sam Taylor said. “But the most important thing was that I think we learned a lot about where we were at.”
The teams had their first spring competition at Vancouver Lake on March 17. The women rowed against the University of Portland, Seattle University and Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) while the men competed against PLU. The women’s varsity Eights, a boat with a coxswain and eight rowers, finished just behind Seattle to place second, while the women’s varsity Fours, a boat with four rowers, came in third. The men’s varsity Fours passed PLU in the last 250 meters, taking first place.
Both teams performed well on March 24 at the Blue Heron Regatta competition in Arcata Bay, CA despite cold weather and a headwind. The women’s varsity Eights rowed a 9:45.45 placing second and the men’s varsity Fours also placed second with a time of 10:16.14. Other highlights include second and third place finishes for the men’s novice Fours and Eights respectively, and a second place finish for the women’s junior varsity Fours.
Taylor is optimistic about both teams’ successes as the season progresses, yet he expects this to look different for the men than for the women. The men’s team is young, while the women are primarily upperclassmen.
“The men are excited because they have that youthful exuberance,” Taylor said. “We’re trying to expose them to high-level racing so that they are excited and stick around and that grows for the next couple years.”
“The women’s team is quite the opposite,” Taylor said. “They’re very experienced, they know what they’re doing and they’re focused.”
The women’s team began the spring season with a small roster. With a number of rowers abroad and others taking the season off, they are down to 11 rowers, less than half the number they had in the fall.
“It’s not a very big team,” Taylor said. “But, it’s a very committed team and a talented team.”
As the only remaining coxswain on the women’s team, Zoë Millman ’21 experiences this firsthand. She’s now rowing with the varsity Eights instead of the novice crew.
“To come into a boat full of juniors and seniors and telling them what to do, it’s a little weird,” Millman said. “As I’m still a freshman, it’s a lot of pressure. But the coaches are really supportive.”
Millman described her specialized duties as a coxswain.
“Our role is to be the coach when our coaches aren’t there, and to give encouragement,” Millman said. “We have to record and listen to our own voices. It’s challenging because I really hate listening to myself on recording, as a lot of people do.”
Millman encourages LC students to reach out to team members if they want to learn more about rowing.
“Anyone is always willing to talk about it,” Millman said. “For some people on the team, it’s actually all they can talk about.”
If you talk to a rower, you are likely to also hear about the Willamette River sea lions.
“We see them pretty much everyday,” Millman said. “They’re the cutest things! I had never seen a sea lion except for in the zoo.”
“This year there are more sea lions than usual,” Taylor said. “And for some reason, Steller sea lions have been coming in. They’re very large, but they’re not threatening.”
Steller sea lions are at least twice the size of the California sea lion.
“They’re a bit intimidating,” Taylor said. “Especially if you’re in a small boat and the sea lion weighs more than you and all the rowers in the boat.”
According to The Oregonian, this year’s influx of California and Steller sea lions can be attributed to heavy salmon, steelhead and sturgeon populations that live below the Willamette Falls. The sea lions are threatening these fish populations, and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has been trapping the sea lions and releasing them at a beach south of Newport, Oregon. Despite these efforts, the sea lions keep swimming back to the Willamette, likely due to the river’s plentiful food sources.
Millman invites anyone to watch rowing practice, held Monday through Friday at 4 p.m. as well as Saturday at 7 a.m. If you come, you will likely spot a sea lion.
Looking ahead, the team will have one additional competition on April 7 before Northwest Conference Championships DIII on April 22. Despite having a small team, Taylor believes the women’s varsity Eights has the potential to be faster than last season. Last year, the women’s varsity Eights placed second in the Northwest Conference and ranked twelfth nationally. As for the men, Taylor expects the varsity Fours to drop time and that the novice rowers will keep developing their skills this season, which will increase the possibility of success for future years.
“We definitely have a lot of improvement to do,” Millman said. “But I think we’ll get there.”