Rowers looking to build off high-level experience

Sophomore Stephen Ching, senior Nicholas Olimpo and two Penn rowers placed 11th at the 2017 Under 23 World Rowing Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria in July.

When Stephen Ching and Nicholas Olimpo originally heard that Philadelphia’s Crescent Boat Club could possibly send a quad of athletes to the 2017 Under 23 World Championship Trials at Mercer Lake in Princeton Junction, New Jersey, they knew they wanted to be involved.

Indeed, the Crescent Boat Club ended up forming a quartet to send to the Princeton National Rowing Center, where the championship trials took place in June. That quartet included Temple’s lightweight tandem in Ching and Olimpo.

Ching, a sophomore, and Olimpo, a senior, won the men’s lightweight quadruple sculls at the 2017 Under 23 World Trials. Casey Howshall, who graduated from Penn in May, and Penn junior Benjamin Weaver, were the other two rowers.

Prior to the trials, Ching did not envision his quartet advancing to the 2017 Under 23 World Rowing Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.

“I thought it would be doubtful,” Ching said of his expectations.

As members of Temple’s eight-man lightweight boat in May, Ching and Olimpo also grabbed silver in Philadelphia’s Dad Vail Regatta, the largest collegiate regatta in North America.

But when Ching and Olimpo arrived in Bulgaria for the world championships, they noticed a different level of competition as the other athletes arrived.

The United States national team was the first to arrive in Bulgaria, allowing it to see each country’s team arrive one by one. As Ching and Olimpo watched different countries practice, it became apparent that there was a high level of talent.

Ching, a 2016 graduate of Radnor High School in the Philadelphia suburbs, called the world championships a “humbling” experience.

“We were the fastest boat on the Schuylkill,” he said. “And the fastest on the Schuylkill was not at all the same level of competition. We didn’t have anyone to practice against that was at the same kind of speed level as those at worlds.”

The quartet from the Crescent Boat Club, which was originally founded in 1867 and serves as the home of rowing programs from Thomas Jefferson University and Roman Catholic High School, did not have the same level of success in the world championships. The group of Temple and Penn student-athletes finished 11th in the lightweight quadruple sculls at the Under 23 Championships.

“We kind of bombed it,” Ching said of the 11th-place finish.

Olimpo, a 5-foot- 7, 150-pound Roman Catholic High School alumnus, said he isn’t concerned about their finish at the world championships. Instead, he valued the experience that came along with the competition.

“I try not to take it too seriously,” he said. “I had a really good time. Even though we didn’t get first, I’m still happy regardless.”

The stint for Ching and Olimpo with the United States National Team was a good experience for the two as they prepare for their respective sophomore and senior seasons at Temple.

“We went up against tough competition, and it’ll help us a lot this season,” Ching said. “This is experience that almost none of our competitors have.”

Ching and Olimpo both said that they would like to compete in the Under 23 World Championship Trials once again in June 2018. The quad will have to find a replacement for Howshall, who is no longer eligible for the competition because of his age.

“I think that’s the ultimate goal,” Olimpo said of rowing in the Under 23 World Championships for a second year in a row. “We want to establish a program [at Temple] that goes to this every year.”

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