Cal women’s crew picks up 5 strong recruits for 2021

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After a season cut short by COVID-19 this spring, the women’s rowing team is looking toward training together and competing in races starting next semester.

Head coach Al Acosta anticipates the team can begin practicing as a group again in January. In late October, he forecasted that the team will have a normal competition season with a race against Stanford in February and the San Diego Crew Classic in March.

Because practices and competitions have not been taking place, recruiting rowers has become one of the main focuses of Acosta and his staff.

With the recent wave of national letter of intent signings, Cal women’s crew picked up five recruits in the class of 2021. Julia Hunt-Davis, Lilly Girling, Katie McDermott, Miya Meskis and Piper Melnick will join the team next fall. Acosta said there may be more to come, as the current class is still a work in progress.

Hunt-Davis hails from The Latymer School in London, and Acosta is impressed by what she could bring to the Bears’ program.

“She’s 6 feet tall, very athletic and should have an immediate impact on the speed of our top boats,” Acosta said.

Girling, who is 5’11’’, rows for one of the best junior clubs in the United States, Saugatuck Rowing Club in Westport, Connecticut. In 2019, Girling was named to the USRowing Youth Regional Challenge roster for the Northeast region, and looking forward, Acosta expects Girling to race at NCAA races during her first year.

McDermott is another strong recruit from the Northeast region, joining the Bears from RowAmerica Rye in Rye, New York, which is also one of the top junior clubs in the country. She comes with plenty of experience on the big stage, placing first at the New York State Scholastic Championships in 2018 and 2019, and second at the USRowing Youth National Championships in 2019.

“Although McDermott is only 5’7’’, she’s tough enough to make up the difference,” Acosta said.

Meskis is from the Newport Aquatic Center in Newport Beach, California. The Southern California local was a USRowing Under 19 Women’s National Team Camp invitee in 2018 and competed in races such as the San Diego Fall Classic and the USRowing West Coast Scholastic Championships.

“We’re excited about Miya’s toughness, easygoing nature and her ability to stroke and set the rhythm of the boat,” Acosta said.

Melnick is a coxswain who, like Girling, hails from Saugatuck Rowing Club. In 2019, Melnick placed third in the Head of the Riverfront race and fourth in the Head of the Fish race.

Building the current class of 2021 has been a significantly different experience for Acosta and his staff. One major downside is that coaches are unable to meet with prospects in person and watch them train and compete.

“Zoom is great, but not seeing them in person here on campus is very strange,” Acosta said. “Our assistant coaches have done a great job with their Zoom presentations and giving the recruits a good sense of what Cal is like and what we have to offer.”

Despite the challenges of recruiting virtually, Acosta said he is optimistic about the current group of rowers he has recruited for next season.

“We’re equally excited about all of these future Bears and what they will bring in terms of boat speed,” Acosta said. “But more importantly, we’re excited about their competitive spirit and how they will add to the culture of our team.”

Alex Wang covers rowing. Contact him at [email protected].