UCI’s Men’s rowing team geared up for postseason competition as they prepared to race in the American Collegiate Rowing Association (ACRA) Championships from Friday, May 20 to Sunday, May 22 in Oak Ridge Tennessee.
ACRA Championships are divided into two categories: novice and varsity.
Irvine’s Varsity Men’s Crew is carrying the weight of high expectations into this regatta. Currently ranked number two in the ACRA coaches poll, they will compete against fellow contenders including George Washington University, Michigan and UCLA for gold.
Coming off a disappointing silver medal win at the WIRA championships, the Anteaters still have a serious shot at securing the national title.
On a more personal level, this is the culmination of years of work and waiting. This crew has survived the ravages of COVID and this is their first and last shot to win it all.
For six of the eight crew members, this will be their last championship row as Anteaters.
A victory high in the Smoky Mountains would send this senior crew off on a high note, leaving their legacy for the care of newer hands.
Newer hands have been much less impressive than their older peers.
Marred by illness and injury, the novice crew has had trouble feilding consistent race lineups, and recently had a poor showing at WIRA championships: placing ninth out of 13 crews.
The novice eight’s freshman three seat Ian Wetherbee and the lightweight four’s freshman stroke Edward Biddlecomb have fallen to a dislocated shoulder and non-Covid illness respectively.
Additionally freshman two seat Garret Jones and three seat Ethan Nghiem were unable to travel, so junior Adrian Avilla has slotted into two seat and sophomore Thadiel Zancoli has slotted into three seat of the novice lightweight four.
Despite these difficulties, the Anteaters are used to stepping up, and the novice eight will compete with their brand new lineup.
“For someone who joined the team later in the year, he has taken the initiative and worked hard,” said Jones. “He gets in the boat and wants to support everyone.”
Replacing Wetherbee in three seat is beloved teammate freshman Hayden Sitko. The new stroke of the novice eight Sahil Desai had nothing but glowing words for Sitko.
“He’s done well under the pressure of the A boat this close to nationals and has put the extra work in to row with us, we really can’t do without him” said Desai.
Despite the turbulence, the boat hopes that the consistency going into the race will see them through to a fast time and serious competition.
The lightweight four who placed third at WIRA is also sporting a new look going into ACRA championships.
The lack of Jones and Nghiem leaves the boat in an uncertain circumstance, trying to build that winning bond with new members and limited time. Add on top the fact that their leader Biddlecomb has been sidelined, and their battle appears to be uphill.
Still they hope to carry the momentum from WIRA and keep competitive in their category, hopefully gaining another medal to match their bronze from Sacramento.
The competition took place, from Friday, May 20 to Sunday, May 22, and can be viewed here or in person in Oak Ridge.
Benjamin Hendricks is a 2021-2022 Sports Staff Writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.