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Peter Mallory's Blog

By pmallory - Posted on 23 May 2013

1 May 2013

Lake Natoma, Rancho Cordova, Califorina

Western Intercollegiate Rowing Championships
Men's Novice Coxed-Fours

Saturday, 26 April, 2013

Heats Results:
1 LMU 7:05.9, 2 PLU 7:17.4, 3 SPU 7:22.4, 4 WWU 7:29..0, 5 UCLA 7:29.3, 6 CHAP 7:41.5, USC 7:45.3
1 L&C 7:21.3, 2 CAL MAR 7:25.8, 3 SCU 7:29.8, 4 SON 7:36.7, 5 SCSU 7:37.3, 6 SEA 7:50.1
1 OCC 7:20.5, 2 USD 7:21.6, 3 UCSB 7:40.8, 4 CAL 7:46.7, 5 WSU 8:01.8, 6 UCD 9:01.1

Sunday, 27 April, 2013

The Grand Final, just as it happened in the words of my Loyola Marymount University Novice Four:

Taylor Coletta, stroke-seat, 6'0" 184, January 2013 transfer from University of Colorado Boulder, rowed for Colorado Junior Crew in high school: It was the final day at WIRA, and we had won our Men’s Novice Fours heat the day before by a good margin. The boat was confident we would shoot off the line in the finals and win it all. I, however, was a little skeptical. In my high school days when we felt full of ourselves we got crushed brutally, so I was keeping an open mind about what the outcome of the grand final was going to be.

Trent Benson, bow-seat, 6'3" 175, January 2013 transfer from Arizona State University, a high school water polo player, began rowing January 2013: I went into the race with a lot of confidence and expected to have a similar experience to the prelims, where we were ahead from the very beginning and proceeded to lengthen the lead and win by 12 seconds.

Nina Lepp, coxswain, 5'8" 123, rowed and coxed for Mt. Baker Junior Crew in high school: Our warm up felt really good, strong through the water, yet calm and relaxed, but I could tell they were nervous. We were expected to win by such a large margin that it would've been embarrassing if we didn't!

Taylor: We rowed up to the starting line, and I was already beginning to feel an adrenaline rush.

Trevor Felix, 2-seat, 6'6" 190, began rowing September 2012: As we rowed to the start, I could already feel my heart beating a little faster. Just a little bit faster is all. We locked onto the Lane 3 stakeboat, the third crew to arrive at the starting line. Two others were already in Lanes 5 and 6. We sat without opponents on either side of us, periodically sculling oars to maintain our point. Eventually, Lanes 1, 2, and 4 filled. I felt my already thrumming heart beat a little bit faster. Just a little bit faster is all. In Lane 2 next to us was Orange Coast College, also a heat winner. They were large, very large it appeared, not only in girth, but in height as well. I am accustomed to being considered rather tall, in rowing and outside of it, so when I saw the stature of our opponents in the lane next to us, my heart started to beat a little bit faster. Just a little bit faster is all.

Nina: We lined up the start line with time to spare, enough time to take deep breaths, see the other crews line up and adjust the point to perfection.

Trevor: The official called, "Five minutes!" and my heart started to beat a little bit faster. Just a little bit faster is all. As we sat there in the early morning heat, I had ample time to review our current situation. There was a lot of pressure on us. In the heats, the next closest time to ours was nearly 12 seconds behind us. That team, Pacific Lutheran University, had been in our heat that day, and now they were right next to us in Lane 4. I felt the extreme burden we all carried on our shoulders, each and every one of us. We were favored to win. Not favored, more like expected. As I have known from the beginning, disappointment comes from expectation, and with the expectation that we were going to roll through the competition to the Gold, it made the possibility of losing extremely daunting. If we lost, we let down ourselves, we let down the team, we let down our parents, we let down our coach, but most importantly, we would let down each other. All five of us had sacrificed and struggled to get to this point. We had supported and challenged each other from the beginning, and now the culmination of all our efforts came down to a seven minute race. Losing was not an option.

The announcer calling "Two minutes!" brought me out of my reflections, and I realized that beneath all of my conclusions I wanted it most of all for myself. This sport is my life now, and I am proud to say that. But it will be my life for many more years, so why does this particular race mean so much? It was too much to put into words, but if I could sum it up, I wanted this win so badly to prove to myself and everyone else that what I have done has not gone unnoticed or unrewarded. Most of all I wanted that title, WIRA Champion, that validation. The betting shirts? the medal? It all meant nothing at that point. This was about pride, determination, and sacrifice.

I soon realized that more than a minute had gone by since the two-minute warning, and my heart started to beat a little bit faster. Just a little bit faster is all. I took a long, deep breath and noticed that I was in fact breathing heavily, not physically tired, but I was so worked up from the anticipation. I took a few more deep breaths, but I couldn't slow my heart rate. I couldn't relax.

Then as the announcer polled the schools, one by one, I noticed my heart rate stabilizing and lowering, one by one. As each school was called, I became more relaxed. This was the time, this was it. "Attention!" My heart was calm, my mind focused, my muscles loose, my intent sure, and my goals soaring.

Taylor: My focus clicked into place as the announcer called, “Go!”

Nina: From the very first stroke I was concerned. From the beginning we were behind, and we just kept moving back from there.

Trent: Almost all the other crews had a better start than us, and we were left behind as the faster boats walked away.

Taylor: The start felt decent, but not as good as it was the previous day. Out the corner of my eye I saw no one, so I assumed we were dead last. I thought to myself, "Darnit!" as that's all someone who's pulling their weight times a thousand could think at a time like that.

Nina: The start wasn't terrible. It just wasn't exceptional and didn't put us in that early lead we wanted. We settled too high, maybe a 36-37, and the guys could tell that we were not ahead. Probably at this point we were third or fourth.

Cameron Heath, 3-seat, 6'5" 210, began rowing in September 2012: Right after the start, I knew we were already down. I felt winded and had a hard time establishing my rhythm.

Trevor: Our start was sloppy. In truth, it probably was efficient and well executed, but the results were what made it feel sloppy to me. Off the line, within the first 250 meters, we were in fifth place. At this point, I didn't need to look out of the boat to get a dreadful feeling in my stomach. What happened? We were first off the line yesterday, and we beat everyone yesterday. What happened?

Around the 300 we settled into a rating of 33 to 35 and found ourselves in fourth place.

Nina: As we approached the first 500, we were in fourth place behind OCC, USD, and PLU. We had completely crushed PLU the day before, and I didn't know why we weren't ahead again.

Cameron: At that point, I wasn't sure how the race was going to end. Our plan was to go out and end it in the first 1,000 and leave no hope for the other teams. I think our whole boat realized that that was not going to happen and we were going to have to win it in the second 1,000, which is what we normally do. Once we established our pace, we did our first "Dedication 10" to our bow-seat, Trent, and gained a couple of seats.

Nina: We took our first 10 for Trent Benson and just kept swinging, kept moving that boat forward, staying calm and not frantic.

Trevor: I was becoming severely winded. The boat felt heavy for no apparent reason, yet we rowed on, and around the 750 we found ourselves competing for third place with the University of San Diego in Lane 5. Nina was telling us that we had a lot of work to do if we wanted to take even second. A lot of work indeed!

Taylor: I raised the rating a little bit, and as we got into rhythm we flew past a few crews into the middle of the pack. Toward the 750 mark, I caught my second wind.

Trevor: Around the 850-950 meter mark, something changed in me, and I realized that I had lost my technical focus and was now being driven by an unseen rage. We had passed somebody a little while before and were somehow walking through the second-place boat, and to this very moment I still have no idea who it was. It didn't matter, though, because unless we got first, we would be just as unknown as that now third-place boat was going to be. With 1,000 meters to go, we were down by at least a half a boat of open water. Nina called a Dedication 20 for myself.

Nina: As we approached the 1,000, I think we were in third. We had passed PLU, but OCC still had a few inches of open on us. I was getting worried, but I reminded the guys of all the hard work they had put in to get there and how much they deserved it. We took our next 20 for the middle pair, the powerhouse of the boat, and slowly walked away from USD. We had pulled into second. Just like we expected, we were taking command in the second 1,000.

Cameron: By the 1,000, I think we had passed most of the boats except OCC and maybe PLU or USD. We did our second Dedication 20 for our middle pair, Trevor and myself, and made the race between ourselves and Orange Coast.

Trevor: It was not until after twenty of the hardest strokes yet of the race that I realized the abysmally large pit of fear in my stomach. I had hit my second wind around the 1,100 meter mark, so all I was feeling was pure dread. I realized I had been carrying a lot of doubt in me for the majority of the race, seeing how much we were down by. My dread was only exacerbated by the call that after those twenty hard strokes we had taken only two seats out of the open water gap between us and OCC, who were carrying on in first place. This was always the point in races where we made our move, where our endurance and tenacity allowed us to overtake anyone. However, we had only moved TWO SEATS! Do you realize how depressing that is to hear when you're pulling as hard as you can and you still are not able to make a significant difference?

Nina: In the third 500, we rededicated ourselves to going fast. I told them that we needed it. We needed that win. I told them that Orange Coast was getting sloppy and that we had to drop the hammer and go, get the blades to the water and move me up!

Cameron: At around the 750 left to go, Nina, said we were about four seats down on OCC. At that point I was exhausted, but I knew that all we had to do was keep doing what we were doing and we would pass them. They weren't moving away, and we were slowly gaining on them.

Nina: As we approached that last 500, OCC was up by about three or four seats, and at that point I knew it was possible for us to catch them. The question just became how much did we want it.

Trent: When Nina called our second Dedication 20 at the 1,000 meter mark, we had begun to gain seats on Orange Coast, but we were still behind with 500 meters to go. It's safe to say that the last 500 meters of that race would be the hardest we had had to race all season.

Trevor: From 1,250 to 1,500 meters was characterized by Nina calling out shifts and moves, and her telling us how we had taken a "half-seat" or "one seat" off of that open water gap between us. 1,500 meters gone and we were apparently bow ball to stern deck. We were approaching the launching area where all of the fans were waiting. The roar of the crowd slowly rose above the thrum of the oarlocks that had rhythmically defined the sounds of the race up to that point. As soon as I heard the crowd, I must have hit some unseen third wind. My breath, gone since the 1,200, returned. My legs burned but started turning numb. My arms and upper body were aching, but also turning numb. All of the doubt and despair I was carrying that whole race was instantly replaced by pure and utter refusal. That very same refusal was driven by my love for the sport and my desire to prove myself. No one was going to take this from me.

Cameron: At the 500, we were still a couple seats down and Nina called for our third Dedication 10 for our stroke-oar, Taylor. In those ten strokes we pulled within a seat of OCC. They tried to make a countermove, but we didn't budge, and at around 300 we started our sprint.

Nina: We took that 10 for Taylor, for him to bring up the rating and bring us that Gold. As we began our sprint, the guys sat a little taller and we slowly but surely walked through Orange Coast College next to us in Lane 2.

Trevor: When we hit the first part of the spectator area, the roar of the crowd was all I heard, and blind rage was all that I felt and thought. If we were going to lose, OCC was NOT going to have an easy time taking first. I was going to leave no regrets on the water. If we were going to lose, it was going to be valiantly.

Cameron: The last 300 were sort of a blur. I remember as we passed the crowd I could hear Nina yelling every seat that we had taken and how much we had moved up. I had a sense that we were going to take it but kept pulling.

Taylor: This was my time to go. This was our time to secure our place in first. "Drop the hammer!" said Nina as l pulled as hard as I possibly could.

Trent: We were neck in neck with OCC by the 250 meter mark.

Trevor: At that point, I regressed (or progressed) to getting extreme body angle over, extreme compression, and a very long reach, and when I backed my blade into the water, my intention was truthfully to break the foot stretchers beneath my feet with pressure. That was how hard I began pulling. This adrenaline or rage gave me my third wind. It numbed me to physical distress and only amplified my mental worries. All of of us, Taylor, Cameron, Trent and I, were doing the same. Their own reasons are unknown to me, but they started breaching a level that we all had never had to go to before. We were charging for first. We wanted it, we needed it, we were going to get it one way or another!

Trent: The race is a blur after that point.

Trevor: 250 to go, and we had moved up to OCC. Nina was calling out we were only one seat down, and I could see them out of the corner of my eye. They were tired. They must have thought they were going to win, but we had the momentum now. Tearing through the water – and mind you, we were – we slowly started creeping past Orange Coast.

We took the lead with about 175-200 meters left to go, and then OCC took a sprint and jumped into the lead once more, only by half a seat or so, until their strength faltered, and their sprint subsided.

Nina: I could hear their coxswain screaming. As we approached 200 we were dead even, and just like we had gained back those three seats, we steadily gained three more.

Cameron: With about 100 meters left, I looked over to OCC and knew we were several seats up, and that’s when Nina yelled, "Drop the Hammer!" which she yelled at the end of each of our races.

Trevor: 100 meters to go, and this was when it all came cascading down onto me. The apprehension before the race, the physical pain in the first 1,000 (truthfully the WHOLE race), the expectations held of us, the despair and loss of hope off the starting line, the rage of the last 750, and finally the pure undying urge to persevere in the last 250 – all of my reflections about pride and purpose, my desire for respect, and my longing to have LMU's name known – all were included in my thoughts at the start of the last 100.

Our rate shifted up, to what I could not say. My body was either numb, or tingling, I could not tell; either because I could not feel it or because it did not matter – perhaps both. We were in the lead.

The last few strokes felt like a distant memory, vaguely familiar but ultimately very hazy and hard to pinpoint exact emotions. All I knew was this was it. I owed it to my team, and they owed it to me, to give it our literal ALL! We were a seat and a half up on the last stroke of the race when the horn blew. We were the definitive winners.

Taylor: My mind was numb and my vision a blur. I think I was pulling so hard I forgot how to breathe, but then a horn went off. One boat crossed the finish line, either us or OCC. As I looked behind me, I saw Cameron with his hand up in the air. As soon as I saw this, I knew how it had turned out.

Cameron: I knew we had won and started cheering, as much as my body could let me. Taylor asked me if I was sure that we won, and I told him I was.

Trevor: After that entire race, all that had gone through my mind, all that had happened, and even all that we had just accomplished, all I felt was the surging contractions of my body rejecting what had just happened. I felt light-headed, and words couldn't describe what my legs and arms were going through. Through all of that pure pain, I screamed at the finish line, "LET'S GO BOYS!" and splashed water from the side of the boat in pure ecstasy. We had done it after all! All of the work had paid off, and my long-term goals had been fulfilled. I, WE, had earned the recognition and respect that we deserved.

We rowed back to the beach. Not only had we won the WIRA Championship, but we had come through from fifth off the line, third at the 1,000, and still down by a boat length at the 500. We had achieved what we came to do and more. All of us in that boat had given it our all, and although we all had different reasons to do so, it came down to one common goal – for pride, LMU Lion pride.

We are carrying a new responsibility on our shoulders now, and as I have come to realize, only the greatest successfully carry the weight of expectation on their shoulders.

Cameron: That was the hardest race I have ever raced in my very short career, and I will never underestimate an opponent again.

Finals Results:
1 LMU 6:52.4, 2 OCC 6:53.7, 3 USD 7:00.2, 4 PLU 7:05.8, 5 L&C 7:07.9, 6 CAL MAR 7:20.9
7 WWU 7:30.0, 8 SPU 7:32.3, 9 SCU 7:36.0, 10 SON 7:44.2, 11 UCSD 7 :48.9, 12 CAL 7 :50.3
13 UCLA 7:38.0. 14 CSU 7:44.9, 15 SEA 7:48.4, 16 CHAP 7:48.9, 17 USC 7:58.3, 18 WSU 8:11.3, 19 UCD 9:18.1