Berth of a rowing team
When Andrew Derrick arrived in October 2016 to take the helm of Seattle Pacific women’s rowing program, he knew he had some rebuilding to do.
By the time the 2017 season began, the roster had more than doubled in size, with 25 in the shellhouse beneath Brougham Pavilion. Those athletes bought into his program and the rigorous training regimen it entailed. Improved results on the water followed.
Last spring, that rebuild yielded the ultimate reward: an invitation to the NCAA Division II Championships, the program’s first since 2011.
“We knew we had an outside shot the year before, but we knew we wouldn’t have the depth,” Derrick said. “Last year was what we hoped for.”
Many rowers arrive at college with plenty of athletic experience — but little to no experience at rowing. However, regardless of what sport they previously pursued, certain qualities are universal.
One quality in particular played a significant role in helping the Falcons earn one of the coveted six berths in the 2019 national regatta. “The team culture really sort of helped us embrace that we are greater than the sum of all our parts,” Derrick said. “On paper, I don’t think we stacked up as well against teams that maybe we were able to get in front of. But the team was able to do it, pull together as one versus a bunch of individuals.”
They ultimately made the most of it, finishing fourth in the varsity eight, fourth in the varsity four, and fourth in the team standings.
Derrick says that same quality is still pervasive, whether on the ergometer (rowing machine) or on the water — often before sunrise.
Number of women in the 2020 rowing squad
First NCAA Division II Championships invitation since 2011
Team standing overall at the national regatta
“We would like to continue to turn heads and increase the awareness that the SPU community, as well as the rowing community, has for our program,” he said.
This year, the team received a pair of brand new racing shells (an eight and a four). The shells were just part of a generous gift to the athletic department from longtime season-ticket holders and SPU supporters Daryl ’66 and Claudia Vander Pol ’66. The couple named the shells for their mothers: The “Dorothy VP” for the eight shell; The “Polly Teel” for the four.
“It can’t be overstated what a true difference that makes [for the program],” Derrick said. “We’re able to put them in some of the best equipment on the market and focus our resources in other areas for our student-athletes.”
Those student-athletes keep coming, as the squad has grown to 32 for the 2020 season.
“We’ve gotten very talented athletes, and we continue to get more of them every year,” Derrick said.
[In March, the Great Northwest Athletic Conference ended all spring collegiate sports programs due to COVID-19, shutting down the women’s rowing season for 2020.]
Photo by Stella Willoughby