There are a few takeaways from the men’s lightweight four’s gold medal finish at the Knecht Cup. The wide margin of victory. The boat’s youth. But neither of those are more impressive than just how recently the crew was assembled.
“We’ve only been putting them together since this week,” coach Gavin White said. “The lightweight boat looked really spectacular. Their upside is really tremendous.”
The “lightweight four” – actually consisting of five guys – is comprised of senior Chris Roberts, sophomores Matthew Ciarallo and Vince DiPentino, and freshmen Hunter Devine and Ryan Dartnell. Competing on the Cooper River in Cherry Hill, N.J., the Owls won handily with a time of 6 minutes, 59.56 seconds. The second place team, Villanova, clocked in at 7:03.84.
“We were in control from the beginning of the race,” Roberts said. “It just felt amazing to cross the line knowing that we basically controlled the race from start to finish. It really felt amazing to have that big of a win in one of our first appearances of the season.”
Roberts, the veteran of a boat in which the remaining four members are all at least three years younger, said he takes extra pride in the victory given his role.
“I would like to think I had some type of leadership role,” Roberts said. “The boat is really young, so I would like to think that I played a big part in just keeping everyone’s head leveled.”
Ciarallo, who led the boat as its coxswain, was quick to acknowledge his teammates for piecing together such a complete race.
“Up until today we weren’t really sure where we stood compared to other crews,” Ciarallo said. “So it’s a good feeling knowing we’re right up there where we want to be.”
“It really takes all four of us to make this boat,” Ciarallo added. “I need all four of my rowers, I couldn’t really do it without any of them. Nobody is more important than the other.”
However, there is nobody more important to the men’s crew team than White, who is currently serving his 33rd year as the leader and face of the program.
White, a retired Temple professor, has moved on to focus solely on coaching crew. More than three decades since taking the job, White said he’s still having as much fun as he was in 1979.
“I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t have fun,” White said. “[The fun] is the same as it always was. Of course, it’s always a challenge. Lately we haven’t been winning as much as the previous 10 years, I’d say. I still get just as excited when we win as I always have, but I think you appreciate it more as you get older in life.”
Ciarallo, one of the many youngsters that White has under his guidance this season, knows that whenever the coach speaks, although he does so sparingly, everybody should listen up.
“He doesn’t say much but when he does talk to you it’s usually something really major and something that could really change your game,” Ciarallo said.
Roberts said his performance the past four years has benefited from White’s rigorous workout regiment.
“The one thing I would say about coach White is that out of any coach I’ve played for he has the greatest fitness program,” Roberts said. “It’s because of him that I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in.”
A 1985 inductee of the Temple Athletic Hall of Fame, White can only hope to see his lightweight crew continue to prosper in the future. He isn’t ready to put an exact timetable on how much longer he plans to coach, but he has a tentative idea.
“Maybe a couple more years,” White said with a laugh.
Tyler Sablich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @TySablich.