Their unisuits were soaked in sweat as they walked through the door.
After weeks of practice, the erg room at Pearson Hall has become the home of the crew team. The crew members dedicate much of their time on the ergometer, which measures the rowers’ stroke rate over a certain distance.
With more than 50 athletes vying for nine seats in the varsity boat, some members of the team couldn’t keep up with the rate set by coaches, causing them to vomit from the demand it took on their bodies.
Still, there are a few freshmen who already stand out to the coaching staff, including Steve Gennaro, a Philadelphia native from Saint Joseph’s Preparatory School.
“He is maybe 160 pounds but ideally a rower would be like 6-feet-6 inches, 200 pounds. But we don’t always get ideal people,” coach Gavin White said. “Some of the best stroke men we have ever had have been small people like Chris McCann, Charlie Bracken, those guys just had a motor and work very hard. That’s what I see in Steve.”
When St. Joe’s Prep rowing coach Jim Glavin first saw Gennaro in 2011, he was taken aback by his 130-pound frame.
“My God, he is the skinniest Gennaro I had ever seen,” Glavin said. “He was very thin and much smaller than his brothers who I had known to be bigger guys.”
Wanting to improve his size, Gennaro spent his time on the ergometers during the fall of his freshman year.
“The erg sucked,” Gennaro said. “We were just inside on the ergs. We didn’t go out and row. That is the part that everyone likes about rowing, being out on the water, but we were stuck inside, not with the upperclassmen. It was just freshmen and it was just us working out.”
As he matured and worked out on the ergs, Gennaro transformed his body and learned the intricate techniques vital to rowing.
“We constantly were kidding each other his last three years of him just getting bigger and getting big and strong enough to be a heavyweight,” Glavin said. “He would always come in and I would say things like ‘You still look like a lightweight,’ and he would always flex for me and he would tell me what his weight was and what he was doing weight-wise.”
Gennaro continued a long family tradition that dates back to the 1970s, when his parents first attended St. Joe’s Prep. His brothers Michael and Bill attended the school in the early 2000s, where they both competed in rowing.
Michael represented USRowing as an alternate at the 2012 Olympics and most recently at the 2015 World Rowing Championships. Bill rowed for Temple from 2004-07 and is now the director of rowing and girls head coach at Archbishop Carroll High School in Radnor.
While at St. Joe’s Prep, which has won 37 Catholic League titles, Steve and his teammates won various regattas, including the Stotesbury Cup his senior year in 2015 where his family watched as Michael presented Steve his gold medal.
“[The Stotesbury Cup] was a pretty awesome moment,” Bill Gennaro said. “Steve, at the time, was a lot smaller than the two of us and his size was something that always ‘concerned’ me as I watched him go through high school. But I soon realized his heart and determination would more than make up for that.”
Danielle Nelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.