A few weeks ago, Juneau-Douglas High graduate Andy Dietrick thought he'd lost his chance to compete in this year's Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championships as a member of Oregon State's varsity eight crew.
Dietrick, a 6-foot-5, 215-pound sophomore, had been a member of the varsity eight crew, but he aggravated a back injury and had to sit out for a couple of races. When his back spasms died down, Dietrick found himself in Oregon State's junior varsity boat as it geared up for the Pac 10 Championships, eventually taking third place in the May 14 regatta.
But a few days later Dietrick and three other rowers from that JV boat received good news -- they would have a ride for the IRA national championships June 1-3 in Camden, N.J. Except this time, it would be in Oregon State's varsity four boat instead of the varsity eight or the JV eight.
Dietrick and his teammates - Adam Hughes, Nathan Packish, Randall Embertson and coxswain Josh Devlin - made good use of their second chance at nationals, taking third place in the varsity four grand final. The crew, which had never rowed together as a four-man unit until the national meet began on Thursday, clocked 6 minutes, 46.28 seconds to finished behind winner Wisconsin (6:41.95) and runnerup Georgetown (6:43.78) in Saturday's championship race.
``The four of us had about five days together before we took off for nationals,'' Dietrick said. ``We didn't even take our own boat. We borrowed one from Cal, which thought they were going to race a four but decided not to. They'd lost our entry and we weren't sure if we'd be in the race. We kept practicing like we were going. We were really thrilled to get a chance.''
The third-place finish of the varsity four was the best of the three OSU boats at the national meet, as the varsity eight took 13th place overall (winning the third-level final) and the freshman eight took fourth overall in its grand final. Both the varsity four and freshman eight boats were in last place with 1,000 meters left to go, but made moves in the final halves of their races to move up in the standings.
``They both did an exceptional job of refusing to back down and taking advantage of opportunities when they could,'' Oregon State coach Dave Reischman said. ``The freshman have made great improvements this year, and this was a tremendous accomplishment for the varsity four.''
Oregon State, which finished the regular season ranked 18th in the national poll, only loses two seniors from its two varsity crews and expects to improve next year.