PHOTO BY LISA WORTHY | STORY COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS ATHLETICS
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AUSTIN, Texas – Texas Rowing head coach Dave O’Neill has announced a pair of additions to his staff with the hiring of Helen Samaniego and Alexa McAuliffe as assistant coaches.
“I’m really excited that Helen Samaniego and Alexa McAuliffe will be joining our staff,” O’Neill said. “Both have proven success in our sport and a wealth of knowledge to offer, and I can’t wait to get going.”
Samaniego joins Texas after spending two seasons as an assistant at Penn, helping the Quakers to the first two full-team appearances at the NCAA Championships in program history. In 2023, Penn finished sixth overall at the national regatta, a program-best, after placing 11th in 2022.
“Helen has been successful everywhere she’s been and has elevated every program she’s been associated whether as an athlete or coach,” O’Neill said. “She has a lot to offer our team, and I’m looking forward to having her perspective on our staff. Her understanding and insight to the intricacies of our sport will be of benefit to everyone in the program.”
Prior to her time at Penn, Samaniego spent three years as an assistant coach at Lower Merion High School while also serving time as the women’s head coach at the Conshohocken Rowing Center and the master’s rowing coach with the Vesper Boat Club.
“Being part of Texas Rowing, as a powerhouse program in the NCAA, has been a dream of mine since I was a kid rowing in Houston,” Samaniego said. “It will be an honor to work with Dave O’Neill, Nick Baker, Gia Doonan and Alexa McAuliffe. I’m very excited to help Texas be the best.”
Samaniego competed as an elite rower for 11 years, twice earning selection to the USRowing senior national team and three times as a member of the U23 national team. She retired from competitive rowing following the 2021 Olympic Trials. She won silver in the women’s lightweight quad at the 2013 World Rowing Championships and placed fourth in the single sculls at the 2012 USRowing Olympic Trials.
A native of Friendswood, Texas, the former Helen Tompkins graduated from the University of Virginia with a double major in Foreign Affairs (concentration in Latin America) and Studio Art (concentration in painting). As a senior in 2010, she rowed at seven-seat in the UVA First Eight to help the Cavaliers capture the first NCAA team championship in program history. That year, she was named a CRCA Second-Team All-American after helping the UVA I Eight place second in the national regatta grand final and was a part of the boat the earned ACC Crew of the Year honors.
McAuliffe is a Texas Ex who was a key member of the Longhorns’ 2021 National Championship team. A four-year letterwinner with the Longhorns, she was an integral part of the growth of the program that finished fourth during her freshman year in 2017, third in 2018 and runner-up in 2019 before winning it all in 2021.
“It will be great to work with Alexa in this new capacity,” O’Neill said. “Her impact on our program as an athlete was monumental, and she has been a skilled coach and powerful mentor the past couple of years. Her leadership skills and passion for the sport are unparalleled, and she’ll be a terrific role model for the team.”
A Newton, Mass. native, McAuliffe is a member of the USRowing Beach Sprints National Team. She won gold in the open mixed quadruple sculls at the 2023 national team trials and will compete at the World Rowing Beach Sprint Finals scheduled for September 29 – October 1 in Barletta, Italy.
“I am beyond excited that I will be returning to The University of Texas as an assistant coach,” McAuliffe said. “As a former student-athlete and rower at Texas, this opportunity holds a special place in my heart, and I can’t wait to be part of the Longhorn family again.
“It’s a dream come true to work to be part of this program. I am eager to help contribute to the growth and success of the team from a new role.”
McAuliffe was a four-time Big 12 Champion at Texas and competed in the second eight at four national championship regattas, helping the boat to a program-best second-place finish in 2019 and a third-place result in 2021. During her time on the Forty Acres, she served as a team representative on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee while also working as a coach and instructor at the Texas Rowing Center. She earned her degree from The University of Texas at Austin in Kinesiology in 2021.