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News / Clark County News

College Notebook: Piette, WWU crew aim for another D-II national title

By Kurt Zimmer, Columbian Sports Copy Editor and Writer
Published: May 16, 2012, 5:00pm
5 Photos
Columbia River High School graduate Jean Piette, second from left in stroke seat, is in her fourth year competing with Western Washington University's varsity eight shell.
Columbia River High School graduate Jean Piette, second from left in stroke seat, is in her fourth year competing with Western Washington University's varsity eight shell. Photo Gallery

Success never gets old for Jean Piette.

In her fourth season in the Western Washington University women’s varsity eight boat, Piette is an integral part of a program that has won seven consecutive NCAA Division II national championships.

“Each year’s a little different,” the Columbia River High School graduate said. “We have a different goal in mind each year. Every time I go out there, I try to have fun. It’s still exciting every time.”

That success is not taken for granted, either.

“There’s always pressure, but I can only do my best,” she said. “I think if we all do our best, there’s nothing to be disappointed in.”

Piette is expecting another fun experience at nationals, set for May 25-27 on Lake Mercer near West Windsor, N.J.

“I’m ready to race again,” she said. “I’ll have a couple of weeks off to prepare. I’m excited, because I love to have fun with my friends, and rowing is just a great experience. I’m really looking forward to going out strong.”

The Vikings’ varsity eight boat took a setback with a loss to Humboldt State at the Northwest Collegiate Rowing Conference Championships on April 21 at Dexter Lake near Lowell, Ore., but responded by taking revenge with a victory at the Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championship Regatta eight days later at Lake Natoma near Gold River, Calif.

The loss at the CRCC meet was Western’s first in eight years. The Vikings, second by about two-thirds of a boat length that day, won by half a boat length at the WIRA meet.

“I guess we learned to work harder for the next race,” Piette said. “I guess it was kind of a wake-up call. Obviously, it doesn’t feel good to lose. It really helped us to draw our attention back in.”

In the stroke position, Piette is the rower nearest the coxswain in the stern of the shell.

“I try to control the pace of the boat,” she said of the stroke’s responsibilities. “I keep everyone together and try to set a good ratio for the stroke rate. I kind of have to be a bit of leader there up front. I can’t slack off. I have to constantly be a little bit more focused than if I was in any other spot in the boat.”

As a freshman on the Bellingham campus, crew was something Piette figured she would give a try after competing in swimming and track at Columbia River.

“I never really thought I’d actually be good at rowing when I tried out, and I was amazed that I actually was OK at it,” she said. “I was very surprised that I actually liked the sport, because it’s very different from what I was used to in swimming. I’m glad I stuck around.”

As a senior, the former walk-on was named Second Team in All-Star recognition by WIRA.

“It’s pretty cool to get some type of award,” Piette said. “That was really cool. It’s good to get some recognition, but at the same time, it’s kind of sad that it’s my senior year and I’ve only got less than two weeks left.”

Piette expects to graduate after summer term with a degree in kinesiology, the study of human movement, seeking to go into nursing or physical therapy after finishing at WWU with an education also shaped by her experience in crew.

“I think it’s really made me a stronger individual, and made me into a leader,” she said. “I’m a more outgoing person, I think. The team experience really made me a better person.”

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Suggestions for College Notebook? Contact Kurt Zimmer at 360-735-4563 or kurt.zimmer@columbian.com

Columbian Sports Copy Editor and Writer