On an annual spring break trip to DeLand, Florida during the first week of March, things began to fall into place for Temple’s varsity 8 boat during a time the team calls ‘Selection.’
After a week of switching athletes in and out of boats on Lake Beresford to find the fastest rowers, the final combination of the varsity 8 boat’s members were decided.
Seniors Charles Anderson, Evan Hammond, Tom Robbins and Brian Reifsnyder, juniors Dante Romeo, David Buckley and Robert Byrne, sophomore Collin McKinney and freshman Austin Dunn began the season in the team’s top boat.
In the Owls’ first two races of the spring, the lineup has stuck and resulted in a first and second place finish.
“We just kind of figured out that we were the eight guys that gelled really well together,” McKinney said. “And so far it’s just stayed like that.”
After Temple’s varsity 8 boat won the Bill Braxton Memorial Regatta and Philadelphia Frostbite Regatta in the fall, the team’s confidence was high heading into the spring season.
Last year, the team finished sixth at the Dad Vail Regatta with a time of five minutes, 51.945 seconds—more than 14 seconds behind the first place finisher, the Florida Institute of Technology.
The group set its goal at winning the Dad Vail Regatta in 2016 and any race it could before the May 13 event, held on the Schuylkill River.
“We’re a lot faster than we were last year,” Romeo said. “Last year, we were a lot faster than we were the year before. This year, our speed’s on par with team’s like Drexel, Michigan, Florida Tech and crews that had speeds last year to win Dad Vails. I think we’re right in the mix now, and we have a really good shot at winning this year.”
Led by their coxswain, Romeo, the Owls finished 5.46 seconds behind Drexel University—who finished third at last year’s Dad Vail Regatta—for second place at the March 26 Murphy Cup Regatta on the Schuylkill.
Drexel grabbed the lead 500 meters into the race and the Owls ran out of room to make up the distance by the time they reached the finish line.
Eight days later, the Owls altered their strategy and battled unfamiliar ocean currents on Mission Bay to grab a West Coast victory at the two-day San Diego Crew Classic in California.
“Going into San Diego, we changed our race plan a little bit where we added a little move where Drexel had passed us in the previous race and it worked phenomenally every time in both races out there,” Romeo said. “Once we did that move about 500 meters in, we were able to sit on the lead and take it to the line. Being able to identify that really helped us out there.”
The victory at the 19-team San Diego Crew Classic was the first victory for the Owls this season at a race with more than 11 competitors.
In the race’s Grand Final, the Owls outlasted West Coast teams like the University of British Columbia, Santa Clara University, Loyola Marymount University and the University of California, San Diego.
After holding the lead after the first 500 meters, Temple defeated second place Purdue University by 2.91 seconds with a time of 6:23.67.
“Any win at any big race like that, you can learn from,” McKinney said. “It can just teach you where you had a little stutter in that race but you still overcame that or you learned something like different crews race different ways or how to handle different conditions. It all leads to confidence going into the next race.”
The win at the San Diego Crew Classic also gave the Owls an opportunity to prove themselves to an audience unfamiliar with their abilities.
“Actually being able to go out there and win, and having our name out there, you can see on different websites here and there our name is starting to pop up a little more,” Romeo said. “People are starting to rank us. It’s absolutely huge for the program. … We’re not the only ones who think we’re fast anymore.”
Owen McCue can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Owen_McCue.