Heading into fall season, the crew team had to recuperate from graduating 15 seniors after last season. In turn, the Owls gained 22 new members.
With having the roster cut down to 32 heading into last weekend’s Frostbite and Braxton regattas, not all 22 made the cut. However, freshman Evan Hammond’s name appears on the roster.
Hammond is considered a novice in the rowing world because this fall was the first time he had ever stepped in a boat. But three weeks ago, Hammond made everyone forget about his inexperience.
Hammond rowed a 2000-meter race in six minutes, 36 seconds — quite a feat for a true freshman.
“When you find a guy like Hammond, you really hit the jackpot,” assistant coach Brian Perkins said. “With his 6:36, he jumped ahead of some of our seniors.”
Hammond’s size contributes to his strong potential. At 6 foot, 6 inches and 220 pounds, he was a center when he played basketball at Methacton High School.
Hammond competed in freshman and novice races at the Frostbite and Braxton regattas last weekend, where novice boats had three first place finishes on Saturday and Sunday combined.
“I had my first races ever this weekend,” Hammond said. “I just wanted to make sure I got the oar in the water right and make sure I got these guys a medal. They deserve it. We have a lot of talent on the freshmen side. I know that.”
“We’re really young, and the freshmen came in there and did a nice job and stayed composed, didn’t panic,” coach Gavin White said. “The freshman group, they really drank the Kool-Aid. They really bought into the program.”
Among other newcomers was junior Zephyr Dippel, who transferred from Philadelphia University. Dippel was sidelined for the entirety of the 2011–12 season with a herniated disc in his back.
At the Frostbite and Braxton regattas, Dippel raced as an Owl for the first time.
“I really like that ritual of getting ready for a race,” Dippel said. “It’s not the championship season, so I’m looking forward to the spring, especially after winter training.”
Winter training can be a peculiar time for novice, freshmen and transfers. With no races, and occasional practices run by teammates, rowers must work out individually.
“I think they’re afraid, and that’s a really good motivator,” senior Mike Mirabella said. “A lot of guys are worried about getting cut, and a lot of guys are about not making the boat.”
“A lot of the freshmen, they don’t know any better,” Mirabella added. “We tell them, ‘Hey, this is what we do,’ and they’re like, ‘OK, we’ll do it — we don’t want to make you mad.’”
As Mirabella spoke of freshmen training during the winter, he related back to his own experience.
“It’s kind of an ignorance thing, and it’s kind of a stupid freshman thing,” Mirabella said. “I remember in my freshman year I did the same workout every day and just breaking down the muscle and rebuilding it.”
The Owls’ winter training epitomizes the struggles a freshman or transfer can face as a season begins. For Perkins, though, the issues can be faced well before winter training.
“It’s like you’re learning to speak the Temple language, getting into the rhythm of getting up in morning and we row a little different than some of the high schools do,” Perkins said. “For example, some of the high schoolers run in four-man boats, now they’re at Temple rowing in an eight.”
After losing 15 seniors, these new, young Owls had a positive showing in their first and only weekend of fall competition.
“We have a lot of freshmen in the boats,” Mirabella said. “It’s good to know that even if they’re not incredibly, technically sound or technically fit — they know how to race.”
“That’s kind of what our style is,” Mirabella added. “We just kind of go out and beat people up.”
Liam McKenna can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.