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Women's Rowing Names Nicole O'Neil Assistant Coach

Aug. 17, 2007

Moraga, CA - Saint Mary's College head women's rowing coach Pasha Spencer announced today the hiring of Nicole O'Neil as the assistant coach for the women's crew program. O'Neil will oversee the women's novice program and replaces Tom Fries, who departs the SMC program after two years to pursue a master's degree from Georgetown University.

O'Neil comes to Saint Mary's from Stanford University, where she was the varsity assistant lightweight coach from 2004-07. In her position at Saint Mary's, O'Neil will oversee the development of the novice team, as well as assist with team recruiting. "I am looking forward to working with Nicole this year," said Spencer. "Her Division I experience will promote a competitive spirit on the team and support our team goals."

"After watching Saint Mary's climb over the past four years to a second place finish in the West Coast Conference in 2007, I feel confident that my experiences and goals are well-aligned with the continuously rising goals of the SMC women's rowing program," said O'Neil.

Before arriving at Stanford, the Cardinal lightweight team was in its fourth year as a varsity sport at Stanford and there was one recruited athlete on the roster. In 2006-07, there were three recruited freshmen in the Varsity 8+ that finished fifth in the IRA lightweight national championship race and two recruited freshmen in the Lightweight Varsity 4+ that won the Pacific Coast Rowing Championships.

In her three seasons at Stanford, O'Neil was the head coach for the novice team and was responsible for the recruitment, development, and training of all walk-on rowers. In her time at Stanford, she led the novices to three straight conference championships and gold medals in the Pacific Coast Rowing Championships three times. She helped the novice lightweight 8+ to a gold in 2005, the novice lightweight 4+ to gold in 2006, and the varsity lightweight 4+ to gold in 2007.

She joined Stanford University after serving as the assistant varsity coach at the University of California at Berkeley from 2003-04. While at Cal, O'Neil worked closely with the varsity 4+, which finished second at Pac-10s and fifth at NCAAs. Prior to working at Cal, O'Neil coached the novice girls at her alma mater, West Springfield High School in Springfield, Virginia.

O'Neil learned to row in high school before attending the University of Virginia where she earned a BS in Civil Engineering. A four-year letter winner and captain, O'Neil was a member of a successful varsity lightweight eight at Virginia, earning medals at the Eastern Sprints and IRAs. Her 1998 lightweight four won a gold medal at the Head of the Charles.

Tom Fries came to Saint Mary's in 2005 and was the first head women's novice rowing coach for the College. He spent two year in developing the young rowers on the team, and leaves the SMC novice program in a good situation. "Tom built a strong foundation for the novice program that fueled the varsity's success last year. We are sorry to see him go, but will continue to build upon his passion and innovation," added Spencer