Catholic League background builds recruiting base

Eighteen rowers on the crew team roster have Catholic League experience.

After rowing on the Schuylkill River for Roman Catholic High School, Tyler Judge felt ready for the transition to college rowing.

The sophomore credits his preparedness to rowing in the Philadelphia Catholic League.

“I truly feel like we had the best coaches,” Judge said. “We were also prepared, and we always went out ready to prove that we were the best on the water every time we were out there.”

The PCL consists of 18 Catholic high schools in the Philadelphia area, six of which have rowing teams.

Of the 54 rowers on the 2015-16 team, 18 attended a PCL school. Last season, there were 16 former PCL rowers.

“The [Catholic League] is starting to make a name for itself in the rowing community,” sophomore Andrew Grochowski said. “You are starting to see Catholic League teams finishing at the top of regattas with teams from California and other respected leagues.”

Assistant coach Brian Perkins brings a PCL reputation to the team. Perkins graduated from St. Joseph’s Preparatory School in 1988 after winning a national championship as a senior captain.

He also helped St. Joe’s Prep win the 1987 Stotesbury Cup Regatta and rowed at the Henley Royal Regatta, an annual rowing event held on the River Thames in England.

“Coach Perkins knows the area as well as anyone around here, so he knows where to find local rowers,” said senior Brian Reifsnyder, who rowed at Father Judge.“Since he went through some similar experiences he helped make the transition into college rowing easier.”

In December 2013, the university announced the decision to remove the Division I sponsorship of seven varsity sports, which included the crew and rowing teams.

Two months later, the Board of Trustees approved a motion to reverse the university’s decision to eliminate the two teams, which maintained the squads’ Division I status.

With the construction of the East Park Canoe House expected to be complete this summer, Reifsnyder said the team is headed in the right direction.

“Ever since the program was reinstated, we’ve felt a lot of things starting to go our way, with the roster size increasing and the new boathouse going to be completed soon,” Reifsnyder said. “I used to think that the Ivy League was the top for rowing, but we have one of the best rowing coaches of all time, and with the new recruits, I think Temple’s future is bright.”

Roman Catholic crew coach Zack Coons, who has four alumni on the Owls’ roster, said the recent investments have shined a new light on the Owls’ program.

“Traditionally [Temple] was seen as a huge powerhouse in the area,” Coons said. “Now with the program reinstated and the new boathouse, I think kids are seeing the future of crew at Temple.”

During the fall season, the Owls claimed 13 first place finishes and totaled five gold medals in four events.

“I feel honored to be a part of this team especially being able to get on the water and help win as a lightweight,” Judge said. “It definitely feels good to be a part of this up and coming program as we try to build something great.”

Kevin Schaeffer can be reached for or on Twitter @_kevinschaeffer.

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