Marcus McElhenney ran seven miles just to calm himself down and visualize the race plan before his Varsity 8 competed in the Murphy Cup on the Schuykill River last weekend.
McElhenney, the senior coxswain of Temple’s men’s crew team, normally takes the extended run before most races, but not to calm his nerves.
He never gets nervous before races. As the teams coxswain, it’s his job to steer the boat, call the race plans and be the eyes and ears for the rest of the crew members.
“The attitude of the boat is normally set by the coxswain,” McElhenney said.
“If we have a really upbeat, positive, we’re-going-to-come-at-them-attitude, then they feel that and they go with that. So I want to make sure I have that attitude going before I start talking to those guys.”
McElhenney did just that last Saturday, guiding the Varsity 8 to its 18th consecutive win at the Murphy Cup Regatta with a time of 5:37.5 – nearly seven seconds faster than second place Drexel.
Saint Joseph’s followed with a third place finish and Dowling, the Owls’ top competition heading into the race, finished fourth.
There were a little more than 20 crews from across the country competing for the coveted Murphy Cup.
“We’re not as fast as we’re going to be in the next few weeks,” said Temple coach Gavin White, who recently coached the men’s four at the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney.
A slight cross-tail wind didn’t effect White’s Varsity 8.
“I was very pleased with the varsity race,” White said. “They held up well under the strain and pressure.”
The pressure was to take home the title for the 18th consecutive year as host of the event.
“It’s our home course, it’s our race and we take it real serious,” McElhenney said.
“It means everything. You don’t want to lose to anyone out of town, even in town.”
The strain came from the warm weather and scorching sun that heated the surface of the Schuykill.
Both White and McElhenney agreed that last Saturday’s conditions, minus the slight ripples and crosswind, couldn’t have been better.
Right before the Varsity 8 race White was standing near the scoreboard in front of the teams’ boathouse, squinting to look for his rowers.
He told them to get inside the boathouse to save some energy for the big one.
“I was concerned,” said White of the hot weather. His Varsity 8 had already raced three times before the final.
“They needed to get some Gatorade, get upstairs and get off their feet. It takes a toll halfway through the race. The sun just drains your energy.”
Temple’s crew teams raced from 11 a.m. till about 5:30 p.m.
The men’s varsity four also took first and second place – Temple had an “A” and a “B” team in the race – with times of 6:21.56 and 6:28.75, respectively.
The men’s Junior Varsity 8 also took first place with a time of 5:57.2. The men’s Novice 8 took third place with a time of 6:05.63.
“That’s the point – we always want to win. We don’t care what boat we’re in, we’re going to win,” McEllehenney said.
“Come out, train hard and win.”
On the other side, the women’s Varsity 8 placed fourth in a protested event. The protest came after Drexel missed its first heat trial.
Since the heats are seeded and used for future regattas, the protest had a domino effect on the rest of the races.
Lehigh won the race.
In fairness to the other crew teams’ future seedings, times were not posted.
Temple’s women’s lightweight 4 took third place in the finals with a time of 7:40.03 and the Novice 8 finished fourth with a time of 7:10.10.
“Every time they go out on the water, they come out faster,” women’s crew coach Christine Deatrick said.
Like any other sport, having home field or, in this case, a home course advantage is always a plus in crew.
“I tell the girls that when we’re on the water, ‘this is our river, this is our part of the river,’ it helps to motivate them,” senior women’s Varsity 8 coxswain Mollie Llewelyn said.
“It helps because you know the course and the girls know where they are.”
“On your home course,” Deatrick said, “you know exactly where you are.”
Temple’s next home race will be the famed Dad Vail Regatta, May 9-10.
Over 100 crew teams will be making the trip to Philadelphia.
For more coverage on Temple’s men’s and women’s crew teams, check out Chris Silva’s other story on Temple-News.com