LA JOLLA, Calif.-
The UC San Diego men's crew team will kick off its 2012 spring season at the San Diego City Championships Saturday in Mission Bay, where they will face competition from San Diego State and the University of San Diego. Seven-time defending champions of the event, the Tritons will be looking to capture their eighth title this weekend.
UCSD will put five boats total in the water Saturday: one varsity eight boat, one varsity four boat, one JV eight boat, and two freshman eight boats. The Triton JV eight boat will compete with the varsity eight boats, as neither the SDSU nor USD programs will field JV eight boats.
"USD will probably be the school that pushes us pretty hard," UCSD head coach Zach Johnson said. "This weekend will be a different format than the rest of the races because it's just the three schools and we all know each other, so we can all get in a little more work early in the season."
The San Diego City Championships will be the Tritons' first regatta since the Newport Autumn Rowing Festival in early November. The UCSD men's crew team put together an outstanding season last year, winning the Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships in Gold River. The Tritons went on to compete in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championships, where the varsity eight finished 18th, the JV eight took 15th, and the freshman eight came in 12th.
The Tritons' performance last season set the bar high for 2012.
"We're defending conference champions and last year we set a lot of new records for the team, so the expectations are to get back to the national championships. It's kind of a tall order but hopefully we can do that," Johnson continued.
The Tritons graduated just three seniors from last year's team in Justin Gordon, Shawn Kuo, and Justin Hsu, and will have a new look this year as it welcomes a host of newcomers. Though UCSD will see a younger, smaller squad this year, Coach Johnson is optimistic in their potential.
"We have a pretty young group as we lost a lot of people from last year, but I think we've got a good team. We're a lot smaller than last year, in terms of physical stature, but we're a lot lighter so hopefully our power will give us some speed," Johnson said. "For at least this first part of the year, with injuries and everything else, we've lost six guys from last year's varsity boat- but a lot of guys are stepping up."
Returners Drew Madden and Jarod Backens are cited by Coach Johnson as emerging leaders for the Tritons in 2012.
"Madden has been a huge leader for the team, he's really stepped up. He's only a junior but he's really earned the respect of everybody. Jarod Backens has been another big leader," Johnson said.
In addition to the returners, UCSD will reveal several fresh faces this season, one standout being coxswain Samantha DeMeyer. DeMeyer, a sophomore transfer from Loyola Marymount, has stepped in right away to seamlessly fill the varsity coxswain position.
"DeMeyer has been really on top of her game and doing a great job for the varsity eight," Johnson said.
With fresh potential combining with wise experience, the Tritons look forward to building upon last year's success at this weekend's San Diego City Championships, where they will set the tone for the 2012 spring season. The races will commence Saturday at 7 a.m. in Mission Bay.