SDSU rowing poised for bright future

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SDSU rowing poised for bright future

Photo courtesy Royce Cumming

Photo courtesy Royce Cumming

Photo courtesy Royce Cumming

by Jack Haworth, Staff Writer

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It would be difficult to find a more dedicated and hard-working group on campus than the San Diego State Men’s Crew Club.

For six days a week, while most students are fast asleep, these rowers are  already down at the Mission Bay Aquatic Center ready to begin practice at 5 a.m. In the afternoon, they are pushed to their physical limits with an intense workout routine that often consists of 300 squats, 200 pushups and 100 pullups.

When they’re not doing that, they can be found in the gym on ERGs, also known as rowing machines, sometimes rowing the equivalent of eight miles or more.

All that doesn’t even include their personal routines.

Each rower works out two to three times a day, six days a week, all while maintaining a full class schedule and often a job or an internship.

Doesn’t it sound tough to complain about waking up for that 9 a.m. class now?

These are some of the most dedicated and disciplined athletes on campus, so it should come as no surprise that the transition to a new head coach this season went smoothly.

New head coach Toby Johnson took over the reins of the team after the departure of former head coach Doug Perez at the end of last season. Johnson, who has certifications in Olympic Weightlifting, Crossfit and Nutrition, has brought a new energy and coaching philosophy to the team.

“Our new head coach has made a huge impact on the team,” Varsity rower and Team Unity Officer Levi Imbuzan said. “He has helped us improve our rowing a lot and it has made a noticeable impact in terms of our times and our ability to compete with other crews.”

According to Team President Royce Cumming, Johnson has sparked new life into the team.

“With a new ambitious coach, the team has been reenergized and ready to step it up a notch,” Cumming said. “We are working harder than ever and ready to grow our program with each passing year.”

During the course of the season, the team had its share of successes, such as winning the Gruenberg Cup for the second year in a row. It also had several other solid performances throughout the year.

Last weekend at the Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships in Sacramento, the top novice boat and second varsity boat each won their respective petite finals. Meanwhile, the varsity lightweight four-person boat finished second place in its grand finals.

While results are important, Johnson explained that this year was mostly about transition and rebuilding. 

“This year was such a learning experience but the guys on the team were very accepting of my philosophies and me as a coach,” Johnson said. “Overall the highlight was really the season as a whole.”

One big learning experience for the team will be the opportunity to participate in the American Collegiate Rowing Association Championships in Gainesville, Georgia on May 23-24. The team will be sending 19 total team members, including 16 rowers and three coxswains. 

“The reason we are going to nationals this year is because the team hasn’t been there in a few years,” Johnson said. “I want them to understand what it takes to achieve top-level performance at a national level.”

Of the 19 rowers going to Georgia, nine  will be novice crewmembers. That group will eventually become the future of the team.

“The novice this year have shown strong commitment to the team going forward,” Novice Head Coach Julia Gamache said. “The future for this team holds a lot of potential with this novice class.”

The future looks bright for a team that one year ago faced many uncertainties. Despite the turbulence, the team kept focused on what it does best: work hard.

“While the coaches can have a vision of where we want the team to go, it comes down to the rowers and if they are willing to put in the work or not,” Johnson said. “Overall the mentality of these guys is great.”

So while everyone will be sleeping, these rowers will still be down at the Mission Bay Aquatic Center. Not for the glory and fame that other SDSU teams may receive, but for the love of their sport.   

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