“Honestly, we’re not quite at that level,” said the Tritons coach, who is now entering his sixth year at UCSD. “But last year, we were ranked nationally in the top 18. That’s something you don’t do overnight.”
Johnson said he believes that year by year there are signs of getting a little closer to join UCLA, USC, Oregon, Stanford and Oregon State.
“Cal [Berkeley] and Washington are the cream of the crop and get a lot of kids from overseas,” said Johnson.
He said he has prepared his team well enough to compete in the last two Copley Cups of the San Diego Crew Classic, and that the team will be fighting for a berth in the classic’s finals on April 1 off Crown Point.
“We’ve got half the guys back from last year, which is a normal turnover,” Johnson said. “UCSD will also have a junior varsity, two freshmen and three alumni boats entered in the classic.”
While UCSD’s crew seeks entry into the Pac 12, the school’s basketball team is looking toward the Big West Conference with San Diego State.
UCSD schedules 10 to 11 crew races each year.
“We begin practice at the end of September and the season could go as late as June if we qualify for the nationals,” he said. “The university has been very supportive. So, we’re taking our show on the road to Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Sacramento.”
He said he establishes a game plan and turns it over to the coxswain, “who is the quarterback.
“It’s my team but his boat,” Johnson said.
UCSD scored convincing victories in the city championships and the Opening Day Regatta at Newport Beach the last couple of weeks.
The varsity eight boat defeated second-place USD by a full nine seconds on Feb. 24 and outclassed UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine, Long Beach State and San Diego State at Newport Beach on March 3.
Johnson said the team is recruiting throughout the country and has 20 freshmen. In addition, they have received transfers from Drexel and Loyola Marymount and a couple from junior colleges.
“What’s my position during a race? Nervously pacing,” he said. “Usually, I’m behind the taco stand at the San Diego Crew Classic. I can’t bear to watch.”