The nine Triton shells will consist of the varsity eight, a second varsity eight, two varsity fours, the novice eight, two second novice eights and two novice fours- a "pretty big squad," declared UCSD head coach Pattie Pinkerton.
"UCSB I think will be our biggest challenge this weekend," Pinkerton said. "They came in second place at the San Diego Crew Classic last year."
The Triton rowers are excited to build upon last season's late success, looking to continue their momentum into 2012.
Last April, UCSD swept UCI in their final home regatta of the 2011 spring season, going on to place 10th overall in an extremely competitive Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association (WIRA) championship contest. At the WIRA Championships, the Tritons' novice four, lightweight eight, and lightweight four all qualified to compete in the grand finale races of their respective categories. The varsity eight, varsity four and novice eight competed in the petite finals, with the varsity eight finishing fourth with a time of 7:06.4.
Other 2011 highlights include qualifying for the San Diego Crew Classic final for the first time in over a decade, and hitting their hull speed personal goal.
"We thought that speed would get us to nationals, but unfortunately we were in a very fast region last year," Pinkerton said. "Our high speed in any other region would have landed us in nationals, so we're looking to shave off another 15 seconds this season."
At last weekend's preseason scrimmage, their first competition of 2012, the Triton rowers took on San Diego State, University of San Diego and local powerhouse Orange Coast College. Pinkerton was extremely satisfied with the weekend's result.
"We were very pleased with the performance. We did very well against OCC, and since they won the [San Diego] Crew Classic last year, that's great news. Even though we were scrappy with an almost entirely new varsity lineup, we were in touch with both SDSU and USD, evidence that our fitness level is good and our training program is working," Pinkerton said.
The Tritons lost five varsity eight rowers from last year in Denise Kleckner, Kelly Temes, Julie Montes, Daisy Orta and Jennifer Burke, leaving room for underclassmen and newcomers to fill some big shoes.
"We have several key returners," Pinkerton acknowledged. "Alyssa Dixon-Word, who as a sophomore last year earned All-America second team honors, will make the jump to bow seat for varsity eight. Also, our four returning varsity coxswains, Anna Meng, Thuy-Uyen Huynh, Ellen Umeda and Katrina Kettler, are key leaders."
In addition to the steadfast returners, UCSD welcomes a host of promising new faces to the program. The Tritons gained a lot of fresh talent, and the process of sorting it out to blend with the established personalities is still underway.
"We've just had our best recruiting class ever," declared Pinkerton.
Triton novice head coach Julia White-Hoppe is excited in the potential of her newcomers. "There are some pretty big, strong girls who came in this year," White-Hoppe said. "To name a few, Emma Fillingham and Roxanne Farjadi are both doing a good job on the ergs and in the water, so hopefully that will translate to the races."
On the varsity side, newcomer Kelly Peterson, a freshman from Oakland, is tabbed as a promising rower who has made an immediate impact.
"[Peterson] has stepped right up," Pinkerton said.
The Tritons cite three team goals for this 2012 spring season. The first is to win the San Diego Crew Classic, the second to qualify for the national championships, and the third is for the varsity eight boat to reach a hull speed of 4.95 m/s, which will propel them to finish a race in 6 minutes and 45 seconds.
Saturday will provide the Tritons an opportunity to start the season with their best foot forward, to carry their momentum from 2011's end into the start of an auspicious 2012.
The Opening Day Regatta's first races are set to start at 7 a.m.