Men’s & Women’s Rowing 30th Anniversary Celebration

Lauren Boone, Managing Editor

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The men’s and women’s rowing program celebrates its 30th anniversary this weekend.

To celebrate its 30 years, the program invites alumni back to campus for a weekend of festivities. The weekend’s events commence tonight with a welcome back cocktail reception at Sojka Pavilion. Tomorrow’s events promise even more fun with an ERG Armageddon in Davis Gym and an Alumni Row at the boat house, followed by evening cocktails and dinner in the Elaine Langone Center.

The program certainly has a lot to celebrate this weekend. Since its founding 30 years ago by Randy Leavitt ’85, the program has grown significantly and made notable accomplishments.

“Men’s crew has had an interesting past,” men’s coach Al Monte said. “Going from club in the 80s to varsity from 1990-2001 then to club-varsity (a unique hybrid) since that point the program has had many faces. We are fortunate now to be putting out consistent quality across the board with some of the largest squads in history.”

The women’s team has grown as well.

“[Women’s crew has had a] variety of strong groups through the 80s and early 90s,” women’s coach Stephen Kish said. “The women also won their first significant medal in 1995, a bronze in the women’s varsity four at the Champion Regatta. The late 90s … was also a turning point as the team began to win significant medals on a regular basis and our squad size increased by leaps and bounds over a couple of years.”

Both teams continue to improve this season.

“We are definitely a program that is on the rise,” men’s captain Jackson McCarron ’14 said. “We have been able to find a progressively greater amount of success over the past four years, and those years have seen a lot of firsts. [Co-captain] Matt Sisto ’14 and I, as well as a number of other varsity rowers on the team have been a part of the first boat to win a national championship and the first boat to beat the University of Michigan in the Varsity 8+ category. Over the last four years the team has won a number of other medals at notable races, including a gold in the Freshman 4+ and the American Collegiate Rowing Association (ACRA) last spring.”

“Over the last four seasons [the women] have welcomed a large freshman class as well as some really inspiring walk-on talent,” said Victoria Kielty ’14. “With racing season yet to start, but only just around the corner, all the athletes have been completing the physical conditioning that will prepare us to go fast after spring break. For the women’s contingent, the addition of considerable speed to the Patriot League – in the form of Boston University, Georgetown University and Loyola – presents a fantastic opportunity for growth and improvement. Led by a senior class of five women, the underclassmen have been showing extraordinary enthusiasm for their first, second or third racing season at [the University]. We are currently in the thick of winter training and experiencing both its rewards and its stresses, but the water is what we’re hungry for!”

The teams are able to achieve such success by following a rigorous practice schedule. Both teams practice six days a week for the entire school year. In addition to traditional workouts on the water, the teams also spend time lifting in the varsity weight room two to three times a week. They also manage to fit in extra cardio workouts.

“Rowing is one of the most cardiovascular demanding sports, and it takes a lot of endurance and training to be able to execute on race day when it matters,” McCarron said.

The teams’ diligent practices and hard work pay off in competitions. Both the men’s and women’s teams participate in several big regattas throughout the season, namely the ECAC National Championship, American Collegiate Rowing Nationals, Knecht Cup Regatta, and The Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta. At these regattas, the teams face tough competition. They row against several fast crew programs from Drexel, Michigan, Virginia, Temple, and occasionally a couple from Canada.

The team’s overall success can be attributed to the individual success of many of the rowers.

“Some of our best athletes learned to row here at Bucknell and have made the U.S. National team,” Monte said. “Brett Wilkinson ’98 rowed was a 2004 Olympian in Rowing and Kyle Lafferty ’10 was on the 2011 National Team.”

But the program goes further than just rowing. Both the men’s and women’s teams are able to perform well in the classroom too.

“As a team we pride ourselves as being successful on and off the water,” McCarron said. “We consistently have one of the highest GPAs of any sports team on campus and we are able to do that while dedicating a huge amount of time to our training.”

But what’s the most rewarding aspect about rowing for the University and being a part of this program?

“My gut reaction is to say racing,” McCarron said. “It’s what we train for everyday and the feeling of crossing the line first in a big race can’t be explained, but at the end of the day, being a part of this team is rewarding with or without medals around our necks. Don’t get me wrong, we are racers and winning is important and it’s what we work so hard for, but we all have made lifelong friends on this team, and that brotherhood is something greater than winning or losing.”

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