A ‘bittersweet’ return

While “relieved” and “ecstatic,” coaches feel for other cut programs.

Rowers await the announcement of the fate of their program.

When 34th-year coach Gavin White first learned of the crew and rowing teams being reinstated, his initial thoughts involved the other four teams that weren’t.

“I feel bad for gymnastics, baseball, softball and track,” White said. “We’re all in this together.”

White said it “really stinks” that the administration only voted to save the crew and rowing programs. Rowing coach Rebecca Smith Grzybowski called the board meeting “bittersweet.”

“We know what it’s like – what it feels like to be in that situation,” Grzybowski said.

Still, White said that it’s “fantastic” that the East Park Canoe House will be renovated – thanks in part to a $3 million donation from trustee H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest. The boathouse’s renovation is expected to be completed between 12 to 18 months of the project’s start date.

“When things get cut, that’s when you find out who your true friends are,” White said in regards to Lenfest’s donation and the city’s additional $2.5 million allocated toward the project.

Grzybowski said there were times since the Dec. 6 announcement of the cuts that she thought the program couldn’t be saved from extinction. The second-year head coach said there was a lot of information she had heard prior to the meeting, but she didn’t know for certain about Theobald’s recommendation to reinstate her program until he spoke at the meeting.

White said he’s ecstatic that his and Grzybowski’s programs will continue past this season, although he is unsure if he will continue coaching next year. The longtime coach is considering serving as an adviser next season to allow assistant coach Brian Perkins to take over the helm, because as White puts it, “he bleeds Temple, too.”

Physical ailments have plagued White this year, but the announcement of the reinstatement could change his plans.

“I’m barely going to make it through this year, but I think this might give me some new energy,” White said.

White, who lives with Parkinson’s disease, was recently diagnosed with chondromalacia. Doctors told him that he had two meniscus tears with his arthritic knee, but White described it as “not real bad.”

While the crew team spent the past four weeks preparing for the season, White was away from the team as he underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair tissues, ligaments and cartilage in his knee.

Still, he was ready to be back with the team.

“Brian has been doing a good job,” White said. “I just wanted to be back with the team. Even though I am still recovering, I feel the need to be at practice.”

Crew members said they were glad to see White back in the weight room.

“It was back to normal again,” co-captain Zephyr Dippel said. “He told us a lot of stories and jokes as usual.”

White was in the weight room of McGonigle Hall last Saturday as the crew team completed a 2,000-meter ergometer test. Members on the team exercised on indoor rowing machines for a maximum of seven minutes as hard as they could go as they vied for boat positions. Crew will open its season on March 8 at the Stetson Invitational in DeLand, Fla.

Grzybowski’s squad also recently conducted its own erg test. The rowing team will open its spring season March 22 against Lehigh and Delaware on the Schkulkill.

Some of the rowers cried upon hearing the announcement that their team would be saved. Others kept emotions inside, as many of their fellow student-athletes still face the elimination of their respective teams.

Grzybowski and her rowers didn’t stick around too long after the board meeting, however. They had somewhere to be.

“We have practice at 4 p.m.,” Grzybowski said.

Avery Maehrer and Danielle Nelson can be reached at sports@temple-news.com

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