Soma Named Second Team All-WIRA as Willamette Coxswain and Rower

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

SALEM, ORE. -- Willamette University freshman coxswain and rower Erica Soma (Scotts Valley, CA/Scotts Valley HS) has been an outstanding competitor in her first season with the Bearcats. She has been the coxswain for WU's varsity crews and has participated as a rower on the varsity and novice lightweight crews.

Soma's efforts, which have led to success and national rankings for the Bearcats, have been honored by the Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association. She was named to the All-WIRA Second Team this week after contributing to quality finishes by the Bearcats at the WIRA Championships, held May 3-4 at Lake Natoma near Sacramento, Calif.

The ability of Soma to help Willamette achieve quality results became evident this past fall when she was the coxswain for WU's women's varsity 4+ that competed at the prestigious Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston, Mass. Soma and the Bearcats completed the race in fifth place out of 32 crews.

Her athletic accomplishments would not have been possible without a tremendous commitment to the team. Furthermore, she was willing to put in an exceptional number of practice hours each week.

"Erica did all she could to support the development of the team," WU Head Coach Susan Parkman said. "In the fall, she came every afternoon to cox the novice rowers and every morning to cox the varsity rowers.

"After being the coxswain for the womens varsity 4+ at the Head of the Charles, she better understood the vital role of the coxswain in the success of a boat," Parkman added. "She continued to pursue her coxing while still training with the team. In mid-February she declared that she wanted to still be considered a rower as well, and began to go to afternoon practices three times a week as a rower."

At the WIRA Championships, Soma was the coxswain as Willamette took fourth place out of 11 entries in the women's varsity 8+ and finished eighth out of 18 teams in the women's varsity 4+. She also rowed in stroke seat in the women's novice lightweight 4+ and was two-seat in the women's varsity lightweight 8+. WU took third place in both of the lightweight events, which included nine novice crews and seven varsity crews. The Bearcats were the top NCAA Division III finisher in all four races.

"Once we established a lightweight four and eight, Erica was one of the top athletes for each boat," Parkman said. "It was tough to get her in a rower's seat, as often the races were too close to the varsity coxswain races. At WIRA it worked out quite well as proven by her results."

Although a freshman this year, Soma joined the Willamette rowing team with previous experience at the Los Gatos Rowing Club while attending Scotts Valley High School in California. She has extended her knowledge as a coxswain and as a rower during her first season with the Bearcats.

Soma is an exercise science major who has found ways to combine her academic and athletic endeavors. In addition to applying knowledge from the classroom into her rowing efforts, she also has worked with teammate Leslie Schultz (Fr., South Pasadena, CA/South Pasadena HS) and Willamette professors Mike Lockhard and Stasinos Stavrianeas in developing a study involving the WU rowing teams.

The student-athletes and their professors have monitored lactate levels among team members to evaluate and compare two training regimes. They are in the process of determining which regimes and particular activities have the greatest impact on the performance and physical conditioning of Willamette's rowers.

Willamette will find out on Tuesday, May 13 if the women's varsity 8+ is selected for the NCAA Division III National Championship regatta. If so, Soma will have another chance this season to serve as the WV8+ coxswain. If not, she can still be proud of a great freshman season and prepare for 2008-09 with even higher expectations.

"Erica linked the novice and varsity by being an incoming freshman with previous experience at the Los Gatos Rowing Club and by bringing her experience and expertise to the program," Parkman said. "It helped me as a coach to have such a versatile athlete on the team who had prior experience."

Erica Soma helped Willamette win bronze medals in the WNLW4+ and the WVLW8+ at the WIRA Championships.

Erica Soma helped Willamette win bronze medals in the WNLW4+ and the WVLW8+ at the WIRA Championships.