By Jim Wrobel
Special to GoHolyCross.com
There is a lot of excitement surrounding the 2010-2011 Holy Cross men's rowing team as they are off to a great start in preparing for the season. "This year the team has a distinct energy that I haven't seen in my previous two seasons and I think that comes from having such a young group," said head coach Todd Pearson. "At our first meeting of the year, I asked the team what their goals are and there was no hesitation. They want to be in the top half of the EARC and bring a full squad to the IRA National Championship. Already, they've put their money where their mouth is, so to speak. At our first lift test, strength and conditioning coach Jeff Oliver was floored by the guys' performance, calling it the best start of the year showing in his 15 years at HC. At our first ergometer test, we had almost half the team set personal best times. On the water, we're way ahead of schedule with our rowing. It is clear that they really want it. We all know that achieving their goals is a serious challenge, but coach Nicholas Zinter and I are determined to help them do exactly that."
The Crusaders, who return 24 athletes, are coming off a season in which the varsity eight earned victories over Bucknell and Rutgers last season, while they received two points in the last USRowing men's varsity eight poll. This was the first time the varsity eight earned points in the final poll of the season since the 2007 season. Also last season the team competed versus five nationally ranked teams and participated at the IRA National Championship for the fifth straight year as the varsity four represented the Crusaders.
The Crusaders are excited to use the fall season, their winter training trip to Cocoa Beach, Fla., and their spring training trip to Gainesville, Ga., to prepare for what is always a very tough spring schedule and the Eastern Sprints. "The fall is a training season for us," said Pearson. "My goals for the team are to improve fitness and improve the technical ability of the oarsmen. In essence, laying the foundation for what I hope is great team speed in the spring dual racing season. Our training trips to Florida and Georgia are extensions of this approach. The Florida trip in January is particularly good for working technique as we don't yet have the pressure of getting race-ready and of course, we put in lots of miles to improve our fitness. Our trip to Georgia in March is a little different as we still work on technique, but there is greater emphasis on crew selection and speed work, as we enter our racing season soon after returning from Georgia."
The trip to Gainesville is always a key in getting ready for the spring season. "The Georgia trip is one of the highlights of the men's rowing calendar," said Pearson. "Holy Cross was among the very first teams to use Lake Lanier as a training site. The rowing facility was built to host the 1996 Olympics and we began training there in March of 1997 which was my junior year at HC. Our team has returned there every year since, so this will be our 15th year and I've been with the team as a rower or coach for all but three or four of those trips. No other team has been there more times than Holy Cross and when we arrive in Georgia each spring, it feels like we're at our second home."
Every season the Crusaders race versus some of the top competition in the nation which is a philosophy that Pearson is passionate about. "One of the things that I really believe is to be the best, you need to race against the best," said Pearson. "It is something that Tom Sullivan, my coach and predecessor at Holy Cross taught me. When I took over for him in 2008, I put a lot of effort into fully developing our schedule to reflect that philosophy. There are no easy wins on our schedule and that makes us a race-hardened team come championship season. The EARC is to rowing what the ACC is to basketball or the SEC is to football. In my opinion, there is nothing like the "trial by fire" that is the morning heat at EARC Sprints. The racing is incredibly intense and I hope our dual racing schedule prepares the team for the late-season races."
Senior Pete Haney
(Oreland, Pa.) and junior Colin
Hayes (Chanhassen, Minn.) will lead the Crusaders as
captains. "Colin and Pete bring distinct skill
sets to the team as leaders," said Pearson. "Colin is a junior
and was a walk-on as a freshman. Both of these traits give
him a unique perspective that is beneficial to the entire
squad. I want the guys to look at him and see that he was in
the varsity eight as a sophomore after being a walk-on freshman,
then a captain as a junior. He is proof that hard work will
lead to success on this team. Pete is a senior and comes from
a high school rowing background. He was in the second varsity
each of the last two years, sitting in stroke seat last
spring. Pete is essentially a lightweight on a heavyweight
team, yet is more effective in the boat than a lot of bigger
guys. Pete has grown into a leader over his four years and I
think he demonstrates to the rest of the team, particularly the
underclassmen, that you don't need to be the stroke of the first
varsity to be a leader on the team."
Holy Cross will also look to its three seniors and its big class of 11 juniors to set the tone and show the underclassmen what needs to be done to row at the collegiate level. "The seniors have had a bumpy ride over their rowing careers, but the ones still on the team have persevered and play a crucial role," said Pearson. "I think one of the reasons our junior class is so strong is because of the dedication of the few and the proud from the Class of 2011. In moments when things didn't go as well as hoped for the 2012's, I hope they looked up and saw a few hard working individuals who stuck it out. Together, the juniors and seniors are hopefully going to instill a strong work ethic in the freshman and sophomore classes, making the foundation of the team that much stronger."
Holy Cross will kick off the fall season when they host the Snake Regatta at Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester on Oct. 9. Then on Oct. 23-24, Holy Cross will compete at the Head of the Charles Regatta. After the Crusaders travel to Princeton, N.J., for the Princeton Chase Regatta on Oct. 31, they will wrap up the fall season at the Green Monster Regatta in Hanover, N.H., on Nov. 6. After training trips to Florida, the Crusaders will compete in numerous dual races to prepare for the championship part of the schedule.