PHOTO AND STORY BY CHIP DAVIS
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UCLA’s men’s eight are club national champions after winning the 2023 American Collegiate Rowing Association National Championship Regatta, May 21 on Melton Hill Lake in Oak Ridge, Tenn. The Bruins edged defending champion George Washington and third-place Notre Dame. Bowdoin won the women’s eight grand final, ahead of Vanderbilt and UC Santa Barbara.
“This was a really challenging year, there were injuries, there was illness,” said UCLA coach Marcel Stiffey, “but the crew managed to put it together when in counted. The last two and half month of training went really well.”
“Really close together the whole way,” said Bowdoin senior Meg Weinstock of her crew’s grand final victory, “and then really started to walk in the last few hundred meters.” Bowdoin also claimed victory in the men’s four. FIT won the women’s four.
Virginia’s Reece Anderson won the women’s single grand final, George Mason’s Victor Corja won the men’s single, an event featuring a petite final this year for the first time.
The national championship of collegiate club crews, which operate as student organizations as opposed to athletic department-funded varsities, ACRAs have grown to be larger than the NCAA and IRA national championships, combined. This year’s regatta, ACRA’s largest ever, featured 1,754 athletes racing in 23 events.
“Considering Covid and everything else,” said regatta director Bob Jaugstetter, “these student-funded programs’ recovery from having no regatta for two years has been far more accelerated then we expected even in our wildest dreams.”
Entries, which doubled from 2008 to 2022, were up another ten percent this year, with coxed fours seeing the greatest increase in entries, from 160 to 315 crews in the top men’s and women’s fours.
“Fours, and all the small boats,” confirmed Jaugstetter. “The small boats because we’re getting smaller programs that hadn’t been coming before. It was very much an eights-focused regatta. We’re getting a lot of new programs that we haven’t seen before. That’s just a testament to the appeal of the sport.”
University of Vermont coxswain Maddy Metcalf has, like all seniors, experienced a challenging fours years through the Covid pandemic and cherished the culminating collegiate rowing experience of the ACRA regatta. ““It’s great! We drive from Burlington [Vermont] so it’s like two days of eight hours in the car. It’s a lot warmer down here. When we left Burlington there were [snow] flurries, so it’s awesome.”
Notre Dame rowing alum and now head coach Quinn Klocke has experienced the growth and development of ACRA first-hand, “We’ve seen some speed throughout the course of the whole year. There’s great competition.”
The ACRA national championships are open to all university and college club rowing teams, and junior college and community college teams, both men and women, that are not eligible through their institutions’ athletic department for the NCAA or IRA championships.
Also at the regatta, All-Region teams and Regional Coaches of the Years were named. For men’s coaches, the honorees were Quinn Klocke, Notre Dame, Great Lakes Region; Nate Goodman, George Washington University, Mid-Atlantic Region; Tony Cronin, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Northeast Region; Andrew Grant, Washington University in St. Louis, Plains Region; Emmanuel Pagan, Vanderbilt University, South Region; and Marcel Stiffey, University of California, Los Angeles, West Coast Region.
Women’s coach honorees included Doug Welling, Bowdoin College, Northeast Region, Elliot Lane, University of Colorado Bolder, Plains Region; Jon Miller, Vanderbilt University, South Region; and Laura Behr, Orange Coast College, West Coast Region. The Great Lakes and Mid-Atlantic regions did not have regional coaches of the year in 2023.