Members of the No. 6-ranked women’s rowing team arrived in San Diego for the 40th annual San Diego Crew Classic expecting nothing short of a victory in an event that USC has dominated in recent years.
They accomplished just that, taking home the coveted Jessop-Whittier Cup for an unprecedented third consecutive year.
The team also claimed grand final victories to win both the Jackie Ann Stitt Hungness Trophy and the Karen Plumleigh Cortney Cup in what was truly a memorable day.
“Awesome. That was really awesome,” USC head coach Zenon Babraj told USCTrojans.com. “I think they all rose to the occasion. It was a great day, but we’ve got to still keep in mind that it’s San Diego and just the beginning of the season.”
Sunday’s victory marked just the second time in school history that USC has taken home three trophies from the prestigious West Coast regatta and the first time that the school has won in three varsity collegiate divisions.
The Women of Troy began the day in peak form when they claimed the Jessop-Whittier cup for the fifth time in school history. The team was able to fend off some of the top crews in the nation to win the top prize, including No. 1 Virginia and No. 2 California. Also in the field were No. 7 Washington, No. 9 UCLA and unranked Duke.
Virginia bolted out front as the race began and gained a considerable early lead. Both Cal and UCLA also held leads during the first half of the 2,000-meter race, with USC and Washington jockeying for fourth.
But the Cavaliers faded around the midway point, and USC was able to surpass them. With about 750 meters left, the Women of Troy made their move to catch Cal and UCLA, who were still ahead.
The team’s great surge came with only 250 meters left and, under the call of senior coxswain Jennah Blau, USC coasted to victory three seconds ahead of Cal with a top time of 6:25.30. Virginia took third place, followed by UCLA, Washington and Duke.
“We always talk about how we want to run our own race,” Blau told USCTrojans.com. “We knew that Virginia was going to come out fast. They took a lot of 10s and made a lot of moves directly after their start and we knew that that wasn’t something we wanted to match, so we focused on running our own race.”
In the second division, USC earned its second trophy of the day: the Jackie Ann Stitt Hungness Trophy. USC finished with a time of 6:32.41, more than five seconds faster than Cal’s second place time. It was the first time the school had won the trophy since 2007.
To finish off the already-successful day, the varsity four boat claimed the second Karen Plumleigh Corney Cup in USC history, with a winning time of 7:23.87, nearly three seconds faster than second place UCLA.
USC’s novice division team finished fourth in a petite final for the Laurel V. Korholz Perpetual Trophy with a time of 7:05.62. Texas’ A team claimed the top spot, followed by Washington State and Texas’ B team.
With the majority of the schedule still ahead of the team, there is much work to be done. But this is certainly the kind of start to the season Babraj had hoped for, and the team can only hope to match this high level of production moving forward.
USC’s next race will take place at the Lake Natoma Invitational in Gold River, Calif., on April 20.