When Megan Batykefer and Todd Ridenour took over the head coaching duties of the North Allegheny men's and women's rowing teams, respectively, they wanted to take the program to the next level.
"We really changed things on both teams," Batykefer said. "It became more serious. We want to get this program back to where it was.
"We want to put boats in the 'A' final [of the U.S. Rowing Youth National Championships]. We want to have teams finish in the top three or even the top five. We did that a lot in the past and we're heading in that direction now. It's definitely in our sights."
North Allegheny tied a school record with three entries in this season's U.S. Rowing Youth National Championship, which took place at Melton Hill Lake in Oak Ridge, Tenn., this past weekend.
To compete in the national tournament, teams had to qualify at their respective regionals. North Allegheny competed in the Midwest Scholastic Rowing Championship May 11 at Dillon Lake, Ohio. The tandems of Gillian Lawhead and Heather Ott (women's lightweight 2x) and Sam Sheridan and Justin Kim (men's lightweight 2x) and the quartet of Aodhan Ridenour, Braedon Jelinek, Derek Coleman and David Tallman (men's varsity quad) all placed high enough to move on to nationals.
All three teams went on to finish in the top 20 overall in their respective events last week at Oak Ridge. Sheridan and Kim took 17th, while Ridenour, Jelinek, Coleman and Tallman placed 16th. Both raced in the 'C' final.
Lawhead and Ott, who were the first North Allegheny women's team to qualify for the national tournament in seven years, finished 11th after racing in the 'B' final.
"It was wonderful," Todd Ridenour said. "This is my first time working with the girls and it's been a great experience."
Both Ridenour and Batykefer have brought a lot of experience in competitive rowing to the North Allegheny program.
Ridenour was an assistant last season for the Tigers, but previously was a coach at the University of Pittsburgh.
Batykefer rowed for North Allegheny in high school and lettered at the University of Delaware. She also coached the North Allegheny women's rowing team for a few years until she left in 2008.
"We both brought competitive experience," Ridenour said. "I think that's helped."
Batykefer has changes planned for the future to help improve the program even more.
Over the past few years, the North Allegheny rowing team has competed at more local regattas than national competitions. While the team has been successful, Batykefer believes that facing better teams at larger regattas in Philadelphia, Boston and Virginia can help the team get even better.
"It'll get us experience and be a good gauge for where we are," Batykefer said. "Competing in those events early in the season will allow us to adjust our training regimen. That way when we come to competitions like nationals, where the teams are blistering fast, we'll be more prepared."
The Tigers could also have the benefit next season of experience. Sheridan was the only Tiger who had competed previously at that U.S. Rowing Youth National Championships prior to this season.
But North Allegheny's quad crew was made up entirely of juniors, and Ridenour, Jelinek, Coleman and Tallman still finished in the top 20 despite facing off against mostly senior-laden squads.
Next season, presuming the quartet stays together and is fortunate enough to advance to the nationals, they'll be one of those senior-laden teams.
If they are, they'll have a chance to get North Allegheny one of the top-five finishes Batykefer sees in the program's future.
"They'll have an excellent shot to represent us again next season," Batykefer said.