May 24, 2012
BERKELEY -California women's crew head coach Dave O'Neill was named the Pac-12 Coach of the Year for the third consecutive year, while senior Elise Etem was named Athlete of the Year, as announced by the conference on Thursday. Four Golden Bears were also selected to the Pac-12 all-conference team.
O'Neill earned his seventh Pac-12 Coach of the Year honor overall after guiding the Bears to their fifth-consecutive conference title on May 13. The 14th-year head coach has led the Bears to a No. 1 ranking with sweeps over Washington, Stanford and at the Pac-12 Championships. O'Neill was recently named the West Region Coach of the Year for the third year in a row by the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association (CRCA).
Etem, a 2012 team co-captain, has been a staple in the varsity eight for the Bears, She is a four-time Pac-12 champion, rowing in the second varsity eight in 2009 and in the varsity eight since then. Originally a member of the Cal women's swimming and diving team when she first arrived in Berkeley, Etem later decided to follow in the footsteps of her mother, Cal Hall of Famer Pat Spratlen Etem, and join the rowing team. A native of Long Beach, Calif., Etem graduated this spring with a degree in media studies.
The four Bears who were selected to the Pac-12 all-conference squad were Etem, Paparangi Hipango, Michelle Leason and Agatha Nowinski. Last year, Hipango, was named the Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year. This is also Etem's second appearance on the all-conference team (2011).
Members of the All-Conference rowing teams are based upon each institution's finish in the varsity eight race at the Pac-12 Championships, which were held May 13 at Lake Natoma in Gold River, Calif. The conference champion provides four members of the All-Conference team, the Pac-12 second-place crew provides three members and the third-place finisher provides two. All other participating conference crews receive one selection each.
This is the second time Cal has garnered the Pac-12 Athlete of the Year award. In 2010, Jill Costello won the honor for the first time for the Bears.
The top-ranked Bears next compete in the NCAA Championships from May 25-27 at Mercer Lake in West Windsor, N.J., as they vie for their third NCAA team title (2005, 06). Mercer Lake was the site of the 2006 NCAA Championships, the last time Cal took home the team title.