USC stages late charge at Newport Regatta, written by Junior, Kellen Proctor

finishAlmost a second home, the waters of Newport offer an uncanny degree of comfort to the Trojan Navy. Having spent their Spring Break training there, every oarsman on the crew is aware of how clean and fresh the air and water are, especially in comparison to our home at the Port. Everything about Newport is beautiful: the houses, the yachts, and the locals, who were extremely friendly towards the crew during Spring Break; but this is a story in and of itself (ask a rower about their experiences during break) Set in this gorgeous environment is one of the most prestigious races on the West Coast: the Newport Regatta. Hosted by OCC, the regatta is a showcase of the speed of Southern California rowing, and an event the Coast Crew has historically dominated. Coach Danny Johnson said of the event: “There is something to be said about Southern California rowing. Hopefully the collection of rowing programs produces enough boat-speed to contend nationally. The whole collection of schools: Coast, UCSD, USD, UCI, UCLA, and LMU are pushing each other to go faster and faster. I would love to see Coast have a good showing this weekend at the Stanford Invitational. Every regatta, we see these boats getting faster.”

Coast is an opponent not to be taken lightly. A powerhouse program, OCC turns out fast crews year after year with the speed to compete on the national level. This is the first time since the fall racing season (in which the USC Men’s Crew and Coast split races) that we have had a chance to race them. Just as Coast has been healthy competition during the fall, LMU has been a tough opponent in the spring. Training under similar circumstances to the Trojans, LMU has proven they are a boat not to be taken lightly. Although we beat them in our duel, their performance at the San Diego Crew Classic reinforced their status as a strong crew this year. Traditional rivals UCLA were set to line up against the Trojans, along with crews from UCI and USD.

The regatta took place on Sunday, April 11, 2010. This was the first time in many years that the Trojan Crew was invited to race at the event. At about 8:30 in the morning, USC lined up against OCC, LMU, USD, UCI, and rival UCLA.

The Race

The conditions: cloudy skies, slight drizzle, and a brisk tailwind, and a slack tide. The race was going to be extremely fast. As the crews lined up, one could feel the tension pulsing off of the other crews. Undaunted, USC sat ready to defeat the competition.

As soon as the crews were aligned, the race was started. The abruptness of the start was a shock to the boat and we floundered with our worst start of the season. 500 meters into the race, USC was out of the picture, sitting 2 seats down to archrivals UCLA, and noticeably down on the rest of the pack. But all of the sudden, something clicked. Typically when crews are put in that position, especially with club crews, the boat turns off. The rowers become demoralized and stop rowing, a disease which has plagued Trojan Crew’s of the past.

Yet, as coxswain Myles Gutenkunst put our position in perspective, the boat collectively refused to accept reality. With intention, the boat became perfectly set, every oarsman startied catching and finishing together, getting full extension at the front of the slide, crushing the footboard, bending the shaft of the oar and propelling the boat through the water. The race became effortless. The boat was flying over the water, all nine members gaining more and more confidence with each stroke. The mental wall crumbled. We began to take seats on the pack, one by one, stroke by stroke. Coming to the OCC boathouse we were in fourth place, just about to stage our last move before the sprint. It was at this point that the entire boat realized that we had the ability to win the race. We took our move, and flew past USD and LMU. In second place there was one boat left to take down: OCC, and they had a boat-length lead. You could feel the desire, the hunger to move to the front of the pack. As junior Austin Delana put it, “You could smell victory.” With 250 meters to go, coxswain Myles Gutenkunst screamed into the cox box, “This is it boys, are you ready, are you ready for this!!” With that he pounded the side of the boat. The crew collectively said “YES.” we had decided it was time. The rating shot up from 35 to 41. 200 meters to go, down 8 seats to OCC

150 meters to go 5 seats down

100 meters to go 4 seats down

50 meters to go 3 seats…

40 meters…

30 meters…

20 meters…

Last stroke.

BEEP…

BEEP…

Two horns signaling the finish of the race, less than one second apart. The time it takes to snap your fingers, the time of one breath, one heartbeat. OCC had just held us off, with a three seat advantage. The rest of the pack followed shortly behind, down by more than a boat-length to us and OCC.

Evolution of a Crew

In light of the finish, the Men’s Crew has been gaining confidence with every competition. A noticeable mental shift has taken place on the team, and with every competition the crew is continually energized to build off of the race and train harder and stronger. Captain Ryan Hasvold said, “It was a good mental race, in that we were able to come back, something we haven’t been able to do this season. It’s a good race to build off of going forward for the rest of the season.” Coach Danny Johnson is confident in the speed of the crew. He says that, “Any time you race a nationally ranked crew, it’s a good measure of speed. We are definitely a top 10 crew, and if we raced OCC one hundred times right now, we’d probably split the races fifty/fifty. It’s nice to see we can contend with a national powerhouse. The Boat speed is a good sign of the direction the program. We are getting faster.” Words only reinforced by the speed and tenacity generated by the crew in training this week. This is going to be a good year for the Trojans, a sentiment that will be reinforced in races to come.

NOVICE RACE:

In what is being considered their best race yet, the novices of the Trojan Crew lined up against OCC’s A and B novice crews, UCI’s A and B crews, LMU, and USD. With a fast start, the crew put themselves in a competitive position for the race. But a series of unfortunate events meant the crew dropped out of contention. Despite this, the crew was able to destroy UCI, and finished a second behind LMU, a finish showing improvement, determination, and competitive drive. Senior Scott Spongberg said of the race, “It was kind of funny, it took 20 minutes to get all the boats aligned before the race. There was a bit of a current, and people were out of their lanes. Despite all of the confusion, we still managed to have a good start, the best start we’ve had in a race. We rowed pretty well and everything felt good.” In addition, the most senior member of the crew, Noel Warner, said of the race, “It was the best race we’ve had. It felt really good. We had a good start, we were all catching together, and although a couple hiccups in the middle, we rowed hard the whole time. Our form fell apart at the end, and we tried to pick it up but didn’t go anywhere. I’m pretty amped about destroying UCI, but bummed that we didn’t edge out Loyola. We should’ve beat them.”

Overall, the Novice Crew has shown a new fervor and drive during training. This commitment at practice has lead to marked improvements in the boat since the Crew Classic.

Final Results:

Varsity 8:

OCC 5:39.86

USC 5:40.96

LMU 5:43.02

USD 5:43.82

UCI 5:53.20

UCLA 5:55.70

Novice 8

OCC ‘A’ 5:56.83

USD 6:07.30

OCC ‘B’ 6:17.00

UCI ‘A’ 6:22.40

LMU 6:34.50

USC 6:35.50

UCI ‘B’ 6:53.30

Perspectives: Thoughts From The Crew Both On And Off The Water

From the Boat:

Myles Gutenkunst: Coxswain

Definitely our best closing thousand meters, the hardest fight and the most committed all 9 athletes in the boat have been all season. Reminiscent of Head of the Harbor even though we came up a bit short at the end. There were a few moments of brilliance of a dangerous closing crew that coach has been hoping for us to become. We still have lots of work to do as we approach UCLA and ACRAs…

Buck Scalese: 3 Seat

After a slow start in a fierce tailwind, we found ourselves well behind all the other crews before reaching 500 meters. Yet we did not panic and confidently executed our race plan, taking long, effective strokes that, along with our moves, allowed us to climb back into the top two or three by 1000 meters. Though our best sprint of the year left us a second behind Orange Coast, I felt it was our best executed race of the year, and showed that no crew that finds itself in front of USC should feel safe…

Austin Delana: 2 Seat

I was pretty nervous going into it. But the race was ours to win. We had a hard time catching at the start line, but our form picked up during the race. There was a point towards the end, when I could see OCC out of my peripheral vision, that I could smell victory. Another 100m and we would have had ‘em. It’s definitely motivational for next race. We’re going to get back and train harder. Overall, the race was a step in the right direction for the SC Men’s Crew and a perfect motivational segway into training for the club national championships…

From the Coaches’ Launch:

Chelsea Eckelkamp: Asst. Coach

Sitting on the front of the launch boat and watching the race from start to finish allowed me to see the personal maturity that each oarsmen has undergone just in the past 2 weeks. To be in 6th place at the 500 meter mark is a huge mental disadvantage and it takes a lot of heart and determination to come back from that position…

From the Dock:

Chris Fisher:

As the boats passed the OCC boathouse it looked as if the crews from LMU and USD were walking on the USC boat, but in true Trojan spirit the varsity eight staged a “furious sprint” that propelled them clearly ahead to the second spot. At the end of the race the crowd of spectators went silent after USC’s great charge, only exhaling when the final results were announced…OCC had won by mere fractions of a second…

Steven Kent:

From a spectator’s Point of View, it was anybodies race but USC for the first half. USC just made a huge charge and decided to go for it. They kicked it into gear and shredded down the course, and almost took first. There was a big feeling of respect for the crew as they stepped off the water…

VIDEO of the race can be seen here, at IBNSports.com

OUR NEXT RACE WILL BE USC v. UC Santa Barbara, APRIL 24th, at 8:00 in the Port of Los Angeles.

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