When Andrew Derrick took over as Seattle Pacific women’s rowing coach in October 2016, he essentially began putting up “help wanted” signs.

The team had just four returnees, and job No. 1 was getting enough athletes to field a team.

Oh, how the goals have changed. This weekend, the Falcons are competing in the NCAA Division II championships, in Indianapolis, for the first time since 2011. And if you think SPU is just happy to be one of the six teams there, then you don’t know its coach.

“I think the goal is to continue to turn some heads,” said Derrick, who was a top rower at the University of Washington and won a silver medal in the U-23 World Championships. “The goal is to not just show up and be tourists. Whether or not we come out on top, we’re going to make it a close race.”

Derrick built a top program at Central Oklahoma, taking the team to five consecutive NCAA Division II championships – the school’s only appearances in that event at that point – and finished second in 2016.  But then the SPU job opened.

“Leaving Central Oklahoma was really hard, but this was close to where my wife grew up (the former Karin Brevick grew up in Fall City and rowed for Washington State),” he said. “We had just had our first kid, and it was just a chance to get back to the Pacific Northwest, and raise our family where we wanted to raise them. And, I saw the potential in Seattle Pacific.”

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Upon arriving, Derrick and his staff began putting up signs around campus looking for good athletes – not necessarily rowers — and held informational meetings. It worked. They got 27 people to compete that first season in 2017, even though some didn’t ultimately last.

Since then, the numbers have risen to 35, and according to Derrick, all are willing to put in the hard work.

No one works harder than junior Gillian Edgar, who came to SPU from King’s High School in Shoreline as a middle distance runner in track. She has found much greater success in her new sport, and is the only Division II athlete to be among the 29 in the pool for selection for the team that will compete in the U-23 World Championships this summer.

“Gillian has physical gifts, but the thing that really sets her apart is her mentality,” Derrick said. “She is an incredibly smart and engaged athlete. She’s engaged and seeking to get better, whether training or understanding what is a relatively new sport to her, and just the willingness to work hard.”

Derrick said Edgar was “head and shoulders above everyone else, but now they are closing the gap” as the level of the whole team has improved.

“The best part of it is that none of the rowers on our NCAA squad are seniors,” Derrick said.