Since the inception of the varsity program in 1990, both varsity coach Tammy Crawford, and novice coach Jodi Winchell have worked to continue the improvement of the team and the development of the athletes. Third-year assistant Michelle Kistler adds supportive spice to a recipe that can't wait to start mixing it up with the rest of the Pac-10.
As the squad heads into the spring season, Crawford expects the team's leaders to be guiding forces for the rest of the athletes on the team.
"In the fall we had some key people out," Crawford said. "But our top four will be back and it will take a real strong effort to take their seats from them."
The top four include senior Amy Armstrong and freshman Gunilla Grafnings, the physical leadership of sophomore Corrie McGrath, and the consistent improvements of Emily Tribe, a freshman from Australia. Also coming back to the team from a fall season shoulder injury is senior co-captain Sarah Allen.
Crawford said that Allen's absence during the fall has strengthened the squad as it heads into the spring.
"Having Sarah out gave some others experience and makes the team stronger now than it was in the fall, " said Crawford. "People will notice that we have more depth. The varsity boat is stronger than last year. There is more quality at the varsity boat level that makes the second boat stronger."
The team spent much of this winter enhancing muscular strength and endurance, and improving cardiovascular fitness after the fall season. Using indoor rowing machines and a new weight training facility, the team was able to continue practice until recently returning to the water in preparation for the spring season
The important addition of talented athletes and recruits has allowed both the novice and varsity eights to combine this spring in a manner that the WSU squad has never attempted. Although there will still be a novice boat and a varsity boat, the added depth allows the team to increase its overall experience at all levels. This experience will be crucial when facing the challenges of competing for a spot in the NCAA field. Last year's NCAA Championship participants from the PAC-10 were Washington, Cal, USC and Oregon State.
"In the past the NCAA selected from four regions in the sport of rowing and they just added a fifth region in the southeast," said Crawford. "It is going to be more competitive to get an NCAA bid this year. We are going to have to be in the top three spots in the PAC-10 to be considered."
The Cougars first competition of the spring will be held March 24 at Long Lake in Spokane versus the Gonzaga Bulldogs. WSU will compete seven more times in the spring including against many perennial top teams at the San Diego Crew Classic. The level of optimism and desire to win has the 2001 rowing team confident of its chances.
"I feel like the varsity eight is more talented and performing better than the last couple of years, and the skill level and depth goes a lot farther," said Crawford. "We have a lot of talented athletes and we will be competitive."