Swapping spikes for the Schuylkill

Two former track athletes have switched to the crew and rowing teams.

Members of the rowing team race Saturday on the Schuylkill in their first competition of the spring season. | Donald Otto TTN
Members of the rowing team race Saturday on the Schuylkill in their first competition of the spring season. | Donald Otto TTN

Both Janie Augustyn and Tyler Baldo lost their passion, and desperately searched for a change.

After spending the better part of their lives as track & field athletes, the two reached the college level, and gained interest in Temple’s storied crew and rowing programs.

Augustyn, a junior, and Baldo, a freshman, have traded in their spikes for oars ahead of the spring season to join the rowing team and crew team, respectively. Both have been middle and long distance runners for most of their lives, but agreed it was time for a change.

“It just started to feel like a job to me and I feel like I wasn’t giving a 100 percent anymore,” Augustyn said. “It wasn’t fair to my teammates, coaches or myself so I was ready for a change.”

“I couldn’t get my time down any faster,” Baldo added. “So I figured I better join a sport that doesn’t really require any coordination but more power, and thats what I went for.”

Baldo, a freshman, has done just that. As the roster nearly doubled in size for 2014-15, the men’s novice coach, Dan Goettner, said Baldo has emerged as one of his top rookie rowers.

“He started showing up in the winter training workouts and started getting scores that were comparable to a lot of our varsity guys,” Goettner said. “That was when he started getting noticed.”

In a recent 2,000-meter ergometer test – which measures rowers’ endurance levels and mental strength – Baldo recorded a personal-best mark of 6 minutes, 27.2 seconds. Goettner said Baldo’s time, which checks in at 15 seconds off the varsity team’s average, is above average for a rower with his experience.

Baldo attributed his early success to his running background.

“With long distance running I always had to strike a perfect balance between power and endurance,” Baldo said. “When I made the switch over to crew, I found to my surprise that most of the power within the stroke comes from the push off the legs, using the same muscles as running.”

“I feel as though I had a slight advantage over my other fellow novice teammates,” Baldo added. “While most of them had to build up strength and endurance in the legs, I really only had to focus on the strength because the endurance carried straight over.”

“It’s a lot of the same motions and muscle movements,” Baldo said.

The similarities between the two sports also led Augustyn to the rowing team. The junior ran for Temple’s cross country program through her first two years at the university. After making the switch, the West Chester, Pennsylvania, native sits atop this season’s novice class.

The rowing team opened up the season last Saturday with a young squad. Almost half of the 49-member roster are novices. Women’s coach Rebecca Grzybowski said her team’s 21 freshmen are true novices, in addition to about six novice sophomores, not including Augustyn, the lone novice upperclassmen.

Grzybowski said the uncertainty of the program’s future a season ago limited her ability to recruit.

“This year we had a pretty heavy novice population just because we didn’t do a ton of recruiting last year with everything that we had going on,” Grzybowski said.

Nevertheless, Grzybowski is confident in the way her team will perform this season.

“We have a pretty healthy mix [with] enough leadership in each boat,” Grzybowski said, “from people who have been there, done that, but also a new drive and fresh perspective from people who haven’t.”

Despite a young team, Grzybowski said the team’s vision remains the same.

“The goal is medaling at [the Schukuyl’s annual Dad Vail Regatta] in as many boats as we possibly can, which would be a big step in the right direction,” Grzybowski said. “We haven’t done that in multiple events since the mid-90s.”

With only the men’s junior varsity 8 boat to win a medal last season, both teams started training in the fall in order to help their novice classes learn and hone rowing fundamentals and techniques.

With the arrival of the spring, though, both teams have returned to the Schuylkill on weekdays to work on racing speed, which requires more teamwork on the boat as opposed to individual skill alone. Working as part of a unit on the river, Augustyn said, will be her greatest challenge entering the season.

“I am used to playing a sport where it may be a team sport, but you are still on your own,” Augustyn said. “What you do only affects yourself, where in this sport what you do affects everybody.”

Danielle Nelson can be reached at danielle.nelson@temple.edu.

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