It’s 5:30 a.m. on a blustery Thursday morning in Hamilton. You look outside only to see darkness staring back at you. Your other senses tell you more, namely that the wind is pounding against your window and the snowdrifts are building by your car. Reluctantly, you avoid the growing temptation to fall back asleep. You pause a moment to stretch, throw on some sweatpants and bravely march outside to face the elements. It’s a Thursday morning at Colgate University and while the rest of the campus is fast asleep, you are a member of the Colgate varsity crew team – your day is just beginning.
According to senior rower Mike McCarthy, there is only one way to survive this training: “You just try not to think.”
Upon arriving for practice, you soon become intimate with a torture device known as “the erg.” The ergometer is a machine that simulates the rowing motion, and on a typical winter morning a rower will spend over an hour on the device, relentlessly repeating the same motion over and over again. The team’s resilience is all the more amazing when one considers that there is little hope of actually rowing on the water – Lake Moraine, your “home water,” is completely frozen for almost the entire season. Therefore, while crews at other schools are honing their technique and stroke outdoors, Colgate is forced to do so indoors.
What gives the crew members the motivation to continue? For one, it’s because as a member of the Colgate crew team, you are also a member of a national championship squad. That’s right: Last June, while many of us were enjoying our summer, the Colgate men’s four won a national championship in Camden, N.J. The boat consisted of seniors Dave Galos, Paul Kelly, Mike McCarthy and Ryan Cole ’04.
“Our victory over schools like Harvard and Yale – two rowing powerhouses – showed the determination with which we practiced leading up to the race,” Kelly said.
If hard work and immense determination made last year’s team worthy of being called national champions, it’s difficult to imagine the possibilities for this year’s group. “Last fall was very successful and, after the winter workouts, I think we will do very well in the upcoming races,” Galos said.
In the fall season, the men’s team won two regattas in Philadelphia, placed second at the competitive Head of the Fish in Saratoga Springs, NY and had a good showing at the world famous Head of the Charles in Boston. The team’s best finish was a gold medal at the Stonehurst Capital Regatta, furthering Colgate’s reputation as a rowing power.
After a winter of hard training, the results are already beginning to show. On Sunday the team traveled to Ithaca and defeated both Ithaca College and the University of Rochester. The men’s varsity eight won with a time of 6:30.60, defeating Ithaca by nearly seven seconds, while the men’s varsity four won by more than 10 seconds over Rochester. The novice boat, consisting of first-years, won its race and then proceeded to defeat Ithaca’s junior varsity boat after a short turnaround – an impressive feat.
Expect little to change tomorrow. In the squad’s only home regatta of the year, the men’s team, led by senior captain Brendan Matthews, takes on their rivals from Hobart in the Seneca Cup, held on Lake Moraine. The following weekend, the team travels to Worchester, MA to compete in the Patriot League Championships. The season does not end there, however, as the team travels to Whitney Point, NY for the New York State Championships and back to Worchester for the ECAC Championships.
The promises of glory and another national championship trophy are what drive the senior members of the team.
“We’ve dedicated so much of ourselves to this program for four years, and while a national championship is an amazing accomplishment, we want to leave a lasting mark on the underclassmen,” Matthews said. “Retuning the Seneca Cup to Colgate, winning Patriots and a medal finish in ECACs are the goals we keep in the back of our minds every practice, every stroke.”
Hungry for respect, these men realize that graduation is looming. They want to leave their mark as the most successful class in Colgate history. Despite the lack of attention from the majority of the campus, the Raider seniors will never forget the trials they went through to succeed. The seniors will be looking for plenty of student support tomorrow in their last competitive race on Lake Moraine.