PALATINE HILL -- With a scrimmage and one competition complete to start the spring season, the Lewis & Clark Pioneers continue working toward the marquee events of the spring season - the Northwest Conference Championships and Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships in late April - at this weekend's Blue Heron Regatta in California.
With a smaller squad than in years past, the Pios will target the smaller boats at the WIRA Championships, says head coach Sam Taylor, who is now in his 13th season leading the program.
Off a third-place finish at last year's NWC Championships, the Pioneers return five seniors for the 2018 spring season. Ryan LaVigne returns off an All-American selection as a junior and has already reset the No. 1 all-time school record on the erg. Natalie Cerda is back and is possibly poised for her best season to date after a regimen of smart training. Like Cerda, Charlotte Copp is a four-year returner for the Pios and has already exceeded expectations on the erg. Copp has done everything right in getting ready for the season. Ashley Garber has committed to some big technical changes entering the year and continues to do well. Kendall Graham set a personal best on the erg and remains a consistently hard worker for the Pios.
Natalie Stroud, an All-NWC returner from a year ago, is back with the team after spending the fall in the overseas study program. Very strong, Stroud is key contributor who is working back from the missed fall. Camille Wong is in her third year in the program and has been a solid team member who is making some big changes this season. Grace Falkner continues her hard work as the team's only sophomore after coming to Lewis & Clark from Alameda, Calif. as a freshman last year.
Kessa Juda-Nelson, Zoe Millman and Allie Traeger are the team's first-year rowers. Already, Judd-Nelson, who is from Missoula, Mont., has set the fifth-best mark on the erg for a novice in school history. Both Millman and Traeger are experienced. Millman is from Scarsdale, N.Y. and a coxswain who has shown good development transitioning to a collegiate program. Out of Medford, Ore., Trager is exceeding expectations so far through her first year.
Lewis & Clark has two seniors entering the spring. Samuel Makikalli brings back a lot of experience with the Pios and will be a key asset for the team in the varsity four and pair. He's a team captain. Nick Read is a coxswain this season. He'll bring a lot of experience to the novice eight.
Maggie Coit is the varsity eight's coxswain. A team captain, Coit brings tremendous experience and is a key team member. Owen Wohlforth is technically skilled and developing fitness entering his junior season.
William McManus is a first-year coxswain who brings good experience and will be a contributor to the novice four. Kyle Mezrahi's athleticism has improved in his second year as he continues to do everything right in training. A strong athlete, Will Riley is an all-around good guy who joined the team as a novice. He's learning a lot and is effective and powerful.
The Pios have nine freshmen on their spring roster. Nicholas Campen is from Palo Alto, Calif. who brings a lot to the first-year group. Kepa Seward of Honolulu set a top-five novice mark in erg testing and has a paddling background. Zach Dworkin of San Jose, Calif. is a former high school swimmer and water polo athlete who has made the transition well to rowing. Out of Evanston, Ill., Joey Finnegan should be part of the novice eight this season, while Henry Moray joined the team from Los Angeles and had a good fall. Leland Nelson (Chicago), Ennis Deihl (Denver, Colo.), Jamie Valtin (San Francisco) and Quinn Vinlove (Fairbanks, Alaska) all joined in the fall and are continuing to learn more as they progress through the spring.
Lewis & Clark had a scrimmage in early March before opening competition with teams from Seattle and Pacific Lutheran on Mar. 17.
Following this weekend's Blue Heron Regatta, the Pios have one more regatta - the Covered Bridge Regatta - before the Northwest Conference Women's Championships. Both sides will compete at the two-day WIRA Championships on Apr. 28-29.