Willamette Women's Varsity Four Earns Fifth Place in Grand Final at WIRA Championships

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110

LAKE NATOMA, CALIF. -- The women's varsity four from Willamette University won its heat and took fifth place in the Grand Final at the Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association (WIRA) Championships, held from Friday, April 27 through Sunday, April 29 on Lake Natoma. Willamette also competed in the women's varsity eight, women's novice four and men's varsity two events.

Forming the WU women's varsity four were coxswain Rebecca Ralston (Sr., Sal Lake City UT/Judge Memorial HS), stroke Lauren Schwartz (Jr., Medford, OR/Saint Marys HS), three seat Laura Jones (Jr., Boise, ID/Boise HS), two seat Ashley San Blise (Sr., Salem, OR/South Salem HS), and bow Kimber Grady (Sr., Seattle, WA/Ballard HS). Their efforts allowed WU to win its heat with open water, while qualifying for the Grand Final. The Bearcats crossed the finish line in 8:07.1 to finish in front of the University of California at San Diego, Loyola Marymount University, the University of Colorado, Sonoma State University, and Santa Clara University.

The women's four took fifth place against strong competition in the Grand Final. Willamette's time was 8:17.1, with the Bearcats trailing St. Mary's’ College of NCAA Division I, the University of San Diego from Division I, Orange Coast College's club team and Sacramento State University of Division I. Willamette's crew was the highest finisher from NCAA Division III in the field of 18 colleges entered in the WV4 race.

"Outsized by their competition, the Bearcats fought a fierce race," Head Coach Susan Parkman said. "Throughout the season, they (WV4) have held onto a relaxed long stroke and relied upon their strength per stroke rather than higher stroke rates."

The women’s four from Willamette will compete again on Saturday, May 5 at the Windermere Cup Opening Day Regatta on the Montlake Cut in Seattle, Wash. Race time is scheduled for 10 a.m. (PDT).

At the WIRA Championships, WU's women's varsity eight took second place in the Petite Final with a time of 7:36.4. The Bearcats finished just 5.3 seconds behind Chapman University and just 0.1 second in front of Humboldt State University. WU accomplished its goal of defeating regional rivals Lewis & Clark College and Humboldt State. The Willamette women's varsity eight included Ralston as the coxswain, plus Schwartz at stroke, Laura Jones at seven seat, Hilary Andrus (Fr., Chimacum, WA/Chimacum HS) at six seat, Grady at five seat, Julie Vernarsky (Fr., Enterprise, OR/Enterprise HS) at four seat, Adrienne Hall (Sr., Orinda, CA/Miramonte HS) at three seat, San Blise at two seat and Emily Mitchell (Fr., Vancouver, WA/Columbia River HS) at bow.

The women were fifth off the line and followed their race plan to find their rhythm early and moved well striking at 32 strokes per minute. As the crew rowed through the half way point at the 1,000-meter mark, inspired by seeing Lewis & Clark off their stern, the Bearcats locked into their boat speed and moved through Colorado and the University of Portland. Holding off Humboldt’s move at the 1,500-meter mark, the Bearcats crossed the finish line just inches ahead of HSU (which beat WU by 0.8 seconds at the NCRC Championships on April 21).

“It was a great race and a wonderful way to end the regatta," Parkman said. "I am so proud of everyone and how confident they remained through a challenging race. We had set a team goal to finish the race with no regrets and I know the girls crossed the line without an ounce more energy to offer. With three novices in the varsity eight, I am looking forward to next season already."

Willamette's lineup in the women's novice four event featured coxswain Eliza Edwards (Fr., Tacoma, WA/Stadium HS), stroke Caitlin Dilli (Fr., Littleton, CO/Heritage HS), three seat Jasmine Henry (Fr., Poulsbo, WA/Home Schooled), two seat Megan Delph (Fr., West Linn, OR/West Linn HS) and bow Lacey Ellingson (Fr., Shoreview, MN/Mounds View HS). It was the same lineup that won a bronze medal in the second novice four event at the Northwest Collegiate Rowing Conference Championships.

The women's novice four stepped up its level of competition in the Novice Four event at the WIRA Championships. Willamette finished third in the Third Final of the WN4 with a time of 9:20.3, as the Bearcats finished ahead of Santa Clara by 16.5 seconds. First place in the Third Final went to University of the Pacific at 8:58.0, while the University of California at Irvine placed second at 9:10.0.

Also competing for Willamette at Lake Natoma where stroke Greg Henselman (Jr., Oregon City, OR/Kamiak HS) and bow seat Brice Miyasaki (Sr., Scio, OR/Northgate HS) in the men's varsity two race. After a quick start in fourth place, the two lightweight men competing for Willamette had to deal with asthma conditions in the 90-degree heat and finished seventh in their heat with a time of 8:40.3 to qualify for the Petite Final. Health issues prevented the men from participating in the Petite Final, which was won by Loyola Marymount. Henselman and Miyasaki handed over their well-worn race shirts as a trophy to the winners, as is the long-standing tradition in men’s rowing.

Western Intercollegiate Rowing Championships - Final Results