Wesleyan Men’s Crew Working on Masterpiece

Wesleyan’s men’s crew team took second place at the annual Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston, Mass.
Posted 11/05/07
The sport of rowing requires strength, endurance and technique. The pattern of striking the water with a perpendicular blade, pulling through a stroke, raising the blade while feathering for the next stroke, and contacting the water again is rhythmic. Perfecting this action, especially in an eight-person boat, is an art.

If that is the case, then Wesleyan men’s crew is right up there with Van Gogh.

This year, despite having three rowers and the coxswain graduate, Wesleyan opened the season by taking first place among 14 crews in the collegiate eight race at the Head of the Housatonic in Shelton, Conn. Two weeks later, the Cardinals came up with their best-ever effort at the Head of the Charles, capturing second of 42 entries, losing to Trinity College in the three-mile event by 3 seconds. In the team’s third and final fall action, the Head of the Fish Regatta in Saratoga, N.Y., Wesleyan again grabbed second, this time a mere 0.15 seconds behind Colgate.

This success is just the latest addition to a much bigger picture that has been growing during the last several years. This includes:

  • A New England title in 2004 capping a 7-3 dual-race season.
  • A 9-3 dual-race mark in spring, 2006, and fourth-place finish in New England.
  • Fifth of 58 crews in the collegiate eight race at the Head of the Charles Regatta in 2006.
  • Second place in New England in Spring 2007 with an 11-1 record.

    Since the second and third varsity eights joined the first varsity as New England silver medalists in spring, 2007, Head Coach Phil Carney had a lot of talent to choose from in filling his empty seats. Unlike most team sports, moving talent up brings in individuals of equal experience to those who departed. Crews usually have three or more boats in action during any given dual event, giving upwards of 30-40 athletes an equal opportunity to exhibit their ability.

    Determining the members of each boat falls upon the coaching staff. Carney, a 1985 Trinity graduate and former crew co-captain there, is in his 21st year with the Cardinals.

    “You can’t make just anyone a competitive rower,” he explained. “Physical attributes are a major plus but the key ingredients are dedication and hard work. We can teach technique and some master it better than others.”

    As far as what makes a group of eight rowers and a coxswain a cohesive unit, “It’s an intangible,” Coach Carney stated. “Fortunately our squad really has it. I see us a little ahead of last year.”

    With a variation in size from a max of 6-5, 210 to a minimum of 6-0, 165, this fall’s varsity eight had Doug Cody ’09, Parker Cook ’10, Gael Hagan ’09, Norman Azoulay ’08, Tom Volgenau or Adam Nikolich ’09, Ross Heinemann ’09, Matt McLarney ’08 and Jeremy Brown ’08 as its rowers while George Bennum ’09 in the coxswain.

    Coach Carney feels he might have five boats racing this spring with 48 men currently on his roster. He attributes an increase in high school rowing, especially among public schools, for the improved talent pool.

    “We have 30 guys on the squad this year who rowed in high school. That’s outstanding.”

    Wesleyan’s first spring rowing will take place in Deland, Fla. where the team travels during spring break for training. After that, the team will have five straight Saturday’s of dual-race rowing leading into the New Englands and ECAC Collegiate Championships in May.

  • By Brian Katten, Sports Information Director. Photo by Steve Cook P’10.