OAK RIDGE, Tenn. - One week prior to the conference championships, the UC San Diego men’s crew has traveled nearly 2,200 miles to compete at the Southern Intercollegiate Rowing Association (SIRA) Championships Saturday and Sunday on Melton Hill Lake.
"We come to this race for one purpose: to test ourselves and find a benchmark against East Coast teams," said Triton head coach Zach Johnson. "We are not able to race a lot of the bigger programs on the West Coast later in our season, so every year, we travel to at least one East Coast regatta to gauge where we are in our goals of reaching the national championships."
Three crews will launch into the water during the first day of competition. The Novice 8 will commence its race at 6:54 a.m. PDT, while the JV 8 and Varsity 8 begin their heats at 7:08 a.m. and 9:40 a.m., respectively.
The Novice 8 will compete against five teams in its race, including Murray State, Ohio, Florida Tech, Purdue and LSU. Contending with the Tritons in their JV 8 heat will be Purdue, Notre Dame, Temple and Virginia. Colorado, Florida Tech, Oklahoma City and Clemson will face UCSD’s Varsity 8 crew.
With three rounds of races, including heats, semifinals and finals, each round will get progressively harder for the Tritons, who are fielding the youngest team in Johnson's nine years at UCSD. In addition, the SIRA consists of 27 varsity programs, many of which are top teams from several conferences, in the main Varsity event.
"That is why we chose to come to this regatta this year," Johnson said. "The competition is high, the format is similar to WIRA (Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships), where we will be competing next week, and it will help a young group become accustomed to the format they will be competing under for the remainder of the season."
At the 2011 SIRA Championships, the Novice 8 (6:02.00) and JV 8 (5:57.90) squads finished second out of six in their respective finals. The Novice 8 trailed Virginia by only .15 seconds (6:01.85) and the JV 8 crossed the finish line just one second behind the Cavaliers (5:56.90). The Varsity 8 finished with a time of 6:13.04 and was 11.34 seconds behind champion Florida Tech (6:01.70).
"We had great results in 2011, but that was with a much deeper team filled with seniors and juniors," Johnson said. "This team has a vast majority of freshmen and sophomores. We always approach our races with a goal of winning, and the same goes for this weekend. The field this year at SIRA will make that goal more challenging. If we can get our boats into the Grand Finals, we will be in a good position with such a young team. We are more interested in seeing if they can progress in their learning curve and put good races together back-to-back. If we can do that, our results will come."
UCSD last raced Apr. 6-7 at the 40th San Diego Crew Classic on Mission Bay. After all four boats in competition advanced to the petit finals in their respective divisions, the JV 8 team won the Sharp Cabrillo Cup Petit Final in 6:18.50. The Novice 8 shell took second in the petit final of the Derek Guelker Memorial Cup (6:33.50) behind University of San Diego (6:26.57). Second-place showings also came from the Varsity 8 team in the Cal Cup Petit Final (6:12.85) as well as the Open 8 team in the Joan Ward Memorial Trophy Petit Final (6:27.70).UCSD RACE SCHEDULE
Saturday, April 20
Oak Ridge, Tenn.
Melton Hill Lake
Heats (Times are PDT)
6:54 a.m. – Men’s Novice 8
7:08 a.m. – Men’s JV 8
9:40 a.m. – Men’s Varsity 8
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