Last year, the crew team graduated 15 seniors – nearly half of a normal crew roster. Assistant coach Brian Perkins related this large loss of rowers to nature, and put the issue of collegiate recruiting into perspective.
“You ever see a boa constrictor eat a deer?” Perkins said. “It has this giant bubble; the bubble passes through, and the boa constrictor says, ‘I’m hungry again.’”
After the crew team lost roughly half of its roster last season, the proverbial boa constrictor became hungry again. This resulted in more than 20 new rowers joining the Owls’ squad, and the roster bulging to 42 rowers.
In order to row competitively for the Fall 2012 season, the Owls were required to thin their roster to 32 rowers. With so many rowers new to the team, Perkins and head coach Gavin White opted to compete only once in the fall, and spend the majority of the season evaluating rowers’ talent.
“I think it was the only option available to us, and we made hay,” Perkins said. “We cut the roster down to 30, and I think we have the right 30 guys here.”
Perkins said the strategy paid off in the case of novice freshman Evan Hammond, who began rowing three weeks before the only weekend of competition at the Frosbite and Braxton regattas from Nov. 10–11.
Usually, the inexperienced do not pose a threat to experienced rowers, but Hammond’s time of six minutes, 36 seconds in a 2,000-meter practice course was among the Owls’ best times.
Perkins said Hammond may not have made the team if the Owls had a similar competition schedule to years past.
“[Hammond] would have grown frustrated and he would have been left behind because we would have been in race boats,” Perkins said. “He would have never had time to get out and hone in on the skills needed to get down the course, so he would have quit out of frustration or been left aside.”
“Twenty-two out of 30 guys who raced this year were, for whatever reason, not wearing a Temple uniform last year,” Perkins added.
Among those rowing as an Owl for the first time is junior Zephyr Dippel who transferred from Philadelphia University two years ago but was landlocked last season due to a herniated disk.
Dippel said he understood the reason for the Owls’ minimal schedule during the fall.
“I think next year, we won’t have as many new guys,” Dippel said. “This year, we had a lot of new guys, and we had to teach them the Temple stroke.”
However, Dippel noted some drawbacks and reservations he had about the lack of competition.
“I want to race more in the fall,” Dippel said. “I want to get as much racing experience as possible, even though the races we would have done are head races.”
“It’s still a race; it’s still game day,” Dippel added. “I really like that ritual of getting ready for a race.”
The preparation for the Frostbite and Braxton regattas were inevitably a bit more peculiar than previously since they were the only competitions. Prior to the regattas, White said the team was eager to please the staff and “ready to bite someone’s head off.”
“We were hungry to race because we have all of this built up…it’s almost like we have built up testosterone,” Dippel said.
However, competitive spirit was fostered before the the regattas began. With a roster of more than 40 rowers needing to be trimmed to 30, the incoming freshmen had to compete with the upperclassmen to make the team.
“Inner-squad competition is better than anything else,” senior Mike Mirabella said. “You don’t want to not be in the top boat in the spring.”
As tension and anticipation built toward the regattas, Perkins and White thought they had a decent team. However, they were not quite sure just how well the team would do in their lone weekend of competition.
By the conclusion of the Owls’ events in the Braxton regatta, Temple had finished with four first-place finishes.
“Sometimes, a weapon becomes dull and blunted if you don’t use it, but that wasn’t the case,” Perkins said. “This fall we did enough competitive stuff during practice that they stayed feisty and were ready for [the regattas] mentally and physically.”
“The energy level [at the regattas] was about an 11, and we only needed them at about an eight,” Perkins added.
Despite the partial benefits for the young team this year, Perkins anticipates competing more in the fall in future seasons.
“Truth be told, if I do a good job of recruiting, this will never happen again,” Perkins said. “We shouldn’t have to go every four years and repopulate the Earth.”
“So this will be a bit of a problem again in four years, and the challenge is for me to manage this so I don’t have to go on a spending spree in 2017 and find all new guys again,” Perkins added.
Liam McKenna can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.