Fall Racing Review

The fall racing season is now completed for the 2013-2014 Aztecs. Competing at four different “head” races, the team raced in Sacramento, Los Angeles, and twice on our home waters of Mission Bay. The fall races were all approximate 5 kilometers (3 miles) long, in lieu of the 2 kilometer races of the spring season. Thus, they take somewhere from about 16 minutes (for Varsity crews) to 20 minutes (for Novices) to complete.


Above: A “part” of our new “Aztec Navy” = which included just about nine 8s worth of oarsmen and coxswains this fall.

On Saturday, the 26th of October, the fall season began up in Sacramento on the waters of the American river at Lake Natoma – the same place where, at the other end of the season, the Aztecs always compete for West Coast supremacy at the Western Intercollegiate Rowing Championships (W.I.R.A.). This October race is called The Head of the American River, and was the largest race of the fall by far. The Head of the American involved several thousand oarsmen and oarswomen, rowing at the Junior (high school), Masters, and Open/Collegiate levels. Everything from single scullers to powerful 8s competed over the course of a regatta that took almost 8 hours to complete! The first 3 kilometers of the race are held up near the town of Folsom, while the last 2 kilometers are staged on the same race course as are the W.I.R.A. Championships.

Our SDSU Aztec Varsity competed at the regatta in five different races. (The Novices did not make the trip up North because they competed that very next day – Sunday, October the 27th – on the home waters of Mission Bay in The Row For The Cure.) We sent out a Pair, a Lightweight 4+, two Open 4s, a Lightweight 8, and two Open 8s. Over-all, the performance of the Aztecs exhibited some major progress toward our goal of arriving “back in the fast lane” as soon as possible. The Light 4+ of Selysa Marshall, Royce Cumming, Kameron Kennington, Randy Beltran, and Jacob Stauts came in 3rd while defeating all of the College Varsities on the race course = Stanford, Arizona State, Cal Maritime Academy, and Sacramento State. The Light 8 was also 3rd in their field, while our Open 4s finished 7th and 13th in a field that included several extremely fast crews from Stanford’s powerful program. Perhaps the most important harbinger of good things to come came in the Open 8. In that race, last year’s finish of 12th in a field of 17 was impressively eclipsed by BOTH of our 8s – the “A” crew finishing 5th and the “B” crew finishing 9th out of a field of 18 crews!


Above: The Novice First Boat powers past … at the Head of the Harbor …

A wonderful addition to the experience for the Aztecs was the lunch provided by Wes Powell and Hal Brownstone after the racing. While loading up the trailer for the trip home, these two alums from the ’80s had a catered Mexican feed brought in that filled everybody on the entire team. Wes and Hal AND alum Dave Sheeron all made brief speeches about the pursuit of excellence and about their days on the crew. This support from the alumni group is beginning to be the norm at all of our races … not only in the fall, but in the spring also! Thanks from everyone go out to Wes, Hal, and Dave for their on-going support for the team!

The next day, on the waters of Mission Bay, the Row For The Cure regatta was held. Novice Coach Julia Gamache’s team of Aztec first year athletes entered a total of five 8s in the racing. Two of the Aztec crews were entered into the “Freshman” 8 (where they raced against crews made up of recruited athletes all of whom had rowed in high school), while an additional three 8s raced in the “Novice” category. This Aztec “Navy” is easily the largest group of first year oarsmen (and coxswains) fielded by SDSU Men’s Crew in many, many years.

As we have come to “expect,” Eric and Marisa Barge showed up with the Aztec tent and food for the multitudes! This has now become a sort of ritual after these past two seasons = with Aztec alums as well as the entire team being able to “expect to be fed” at regattas. We cannot thank the alums who support us in this way … led by Eric and Marisa, whose efforts extend to organizing (along with Michelle Pius) the banquet at the other end of the season.

Two weeks later, once again on the home waters of San Diego’s Mission Bay, the San Diego Fall Classic was held. This 5K regatta began at the end of Sea World Channel, went through the South Bridge, around Vacation Island, back through the North Bridge, and then turned left (North) and ended at the finish line of the spring’s Crew Classic. The SDSU Aztec Men were by far the largest contingent of college crews in evidence. We entered a Pair, three Varsity 8s, a Novice 4+, and four Novice 8s.

In the first race of the day, the Varsity program’s three 8s finished behind the powerful Varsities of UCSD and USD. But our “A” crew of Briana Gage, Ryan Williams, Kyle Winchester, Mitchell Evans, Chris Huffstetler, Bernie Aparicio, Kameron Kennington, Brandt Watson, and Scott Gerdes defeated Arizona State and both 8s entered by U.C. Davis. (This was the second defeat of those crews by our “A” boat in as many races.) Our “B” crew also defeated both U.C. Davis crews. And all three of our crews defeated the Varsity from Arizona State!

In the Novice 8 event, a similar result was reached as that in the Open (Varsity) 8 . Chasing recruited, high school-experienced athletes from UCSD and USD, our Novice “A” crew finished 3rd. It was the fastest of the “genuine” Novice crews … meaning those crews from Arizona State and U.C. Davis that were made up of first year (non-high school) rowers. Our Novice “B” crew finished 5th (defeating both Davis crews), our Novice “C” crew finished 7th (defeating Davis’s “B” crew), and our Novice “D” crew finished 9th. A virtual “Navy” of Aztecs took to the waters of Mission Bay that day, as evidenced by the picture that leads this page = that shows three of our four Novice 8s launching at the Fall Classic!

Eric and Marisa were once again in evidence with the Aztec tent and food, and Jeff Cyr drove the several hundred miles round trip from up in the L.A. Basin to help out with the food. In fact, when the Head of the Harbor came along on November the 17th, Jeff provided all of the food necessary to feed the team and visiting alums up at L.A. Harbor! And speaking of alums at the Head of the Harbor, Bob Dickson helped out by bringing the tent and tables up for the event (from San Diego), and Mark Leeds and Aaron Pollock showed up to root the Aztecs on. Aaron in particular has been doing a yeoman’s job supporting the Aztecs this year by helping out with all of the administrative details necessary to move the team forward, “running interference” for the coaching staff in that regard, and making so many trips down to San Diego for meetings and the like that we are beginning to wonder if Aaron still goes to work ever! Thanks go out from us all to these loyal alums, always there when the team needs them!


Above: The Aztec Second Varsity launches at the Head of the Harbor … this crew defeated 12 crews this fall, half of which were Varsities!

One week later, the fall season concluded at the Head of the Harbor regatta in Los Angeles Harbor – at the same spot (the USC Boathouse) that the event has always graced. In the first race of the day, our Varsity crew lost to the defending Cal Cup Champions from UCSB (the second most powerful team over-all in the entire country), and UCLA. In the process, they defeated Long Beach State and USC by numerous boatlengths. Our 2V finished with the same result – trailing UCSB and UCLA. In still another harbinger of good things to come, the Varsity Lightweight 8 defeated a UCSB crew (defending Crew Classic Champions in the Secretary of the Navy Cup) by half a minute. According to witnesses in the official’s launch, that race was “over after about 30 strokes” … when the Aztecs already had a two length lead. Also impressive was the time turned in by the Lightweights. Their time of 17:27 was just one boatlength off of the winning time (UCSB) in the J.V. 8!


Above: “Most” of the Aztec Coxswains’ Brigade … at the San Diego Fall Classic.

Later in the morning, our Novice “A” crew finished 2nd, behind Loyola’s recruited, high-school experienced crew … defeating UCLA, Long Beach State, USC, and UCSB. In the Novice “B” race, our Aztecs also finished 2nd, this time to a crew from Long Beach State … later determined to include several oarsmen whose “novice” status was in question. These first year Aztecs (the “B” crew) defeated UCLA, UCSB, and USC. An additional Aztec Novice crew competed in the Novice “C” race … with our last (“D”) crew being left out of that race by race officials who did not hold off the start of the race for them (they arrived a bit late due to a boat-switching/sharing situation).


Above: Aaron Pollock of the H. Del Beekley Rowing Foundation Board of Directors (in red) and Novice Coach Julia Gamache in front of a group of Aztecs at the Head of the Harbor.

There is no longer a team points trophy for the Head of the Harbor, but if there was one, the Aztecs would have been in the hunt to win it, just behind UCSB and UCLA. The Aztecs now are winding down the fall season, with a fundraising event (an “Erg-A-Thon”) on Saturday the 23rd of November which will be followed by the christening of three shells purchased at the end of last season and at the beginning of this one. That christening – to be held on the campus at 3 P.M. – will be followed several hours later with a tail-gate party in the parking lot at the Aztec’s last football game of their fall season.


Above: Lightweight Varsity Coxswain Selysa Marshal is “dunked” after an impressive victory at the Head of the Harbor.

The fall season’s penultimate events comprised the Fall Alumni Day festivities – noted elsewhere. Then, on Tuesday the 3rd of December, the last get-together of the season occurs as has been tradition for several generations. The combined teams have an evening meeting wherein the coaches hand out Winter work-out plans. Then, the Aztecs head their separate ways … focusing upon studying and then vacating … until the third week of January.


Above: The Varsity 8 races past the USC Boathouse at the Head of the Harbor. The crew was Coxswain Briana Gage, Stroke Ryan Williams, Kyle Winchester = 7, Mitchell Evans = 6, Ted Martin = 5, Bernie Aparicio = 4, Chris Huffstetler = 3, Brandt Watson = 2, and Scott Gerdes = Bow.

Onward and into the Winter training that will determine how far the program advances this coming spring!


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