SDSU versus “THE WORLD!”
The San Diego Crew Classic has often presented a sort of mixed bag of experiences for our Aztecs. On the one hand, we have sometimes had crews that could race for (and win) the Cal Cup at the Varsity 8 level, and we have sometimes raced for the money in the Novice, Freshman, and Lightweight categories. That is, of course, “as it should be” … given that the original idea for the Crew Classic many, many years ago was to provide a top level regatta for San Diego State’s Men’s Crew (yes – it is an historical fact that this regatta was originally put together “for us” .. before there even were crews at the other local universities)! On the other hand, with powerhouse crews coming in to town from not only all over the Western United State, but also from the other side of the continent, from Canada, and from Mexico, we have tended to be eclipsed by the entire operation. It is hard not to get lost in the shuffle at such an event. Even our well attended Bar-B-Q tent – organized and operated by Dan Smith – was a huge “hit” that once again drew in several hundred hungry fans this year.
The mixed bag of results that was becoming the 2013 Spring Racing Season continued on at the Crew Classic. The Varsity 8 drew lane 7, out in the wind and chop, and did not have a good row. While they failed to qualify for the 3rd Final, this crew of Alex Oetzell (Cox), Jesse Robles, Lawson Navarro (Team Captain), David Wizer, Emmanuel Machado, Mike Buckel, Chris Huffstetler, Armie Kahn, and Zach Zeidman included only one Senior athlete. The First Novice 8 caught a crab with just 20 strokes to go, and gave up a position in the Final to UCSB. Later on Saturday, they came in third in the Petite Final. While that indicated that they had finished 8th in a field of 20 crews – certainly a very respectable performance – they were quite disappointed to have lost to cross town rivals USD and UCSD, two crews that our yearlings had defeated earlier in the season.
Above: The Novice “A” crew in a tight race with a fine UCSB crew in the heat – the two crews traded victories all year long.
The Second Novice 8 raced in the exact same race (meaning that they faced the exact same five other crews) as they had at Newport, two weeks prior. And their result was exactly the same = they came in fourth out of 6, defeating UCLA and USC, but losing to OCC, UCSB, and UCI.
The lightweights had two good races, but were disappointed not to take away the gold! On Saturday, they lost a narrow race to UCSB and OCC, but defeated Cal and Loyola along the way. This was a “race for lanes” – aiming at Sunday’s final. Having defeated every crew in the race at one point or another in the season, the Aztecs were poised on Sunday morning to take a “first-ever” gold medal in the Lightweight Varsity 8 at the Crew Classic. Even in the past’s “glory days,” we have never, ever won this event! Alums will recall that in days gone by, two and sometimes three quality crews would come out from the Ivy League to race in this event … and, thus, even in our “glory years” we have never won the Secretary of the Navy’s Cup in this event.
But UCSB turned in a stellar performance, moving away from the entire field for a two length victory that nobody predicted. The Aztecs came back to defeat an Orange Coast crew to whom they had lost on Saturday, beat Cal by a boatlength, and defeated Loyola by several lengths of open water. What was particularly heart-warming for alums was how the Aztecs – nearly victorious in a “never-before-won” cup race – had been disappointed not to win! They had expected the victory! Good stuff for the future!
Above: The Varsity 8 returns from their heat on Saturday morning at the Crew Classic.
Such was the racing at the Crew Classic. But there was much, much more involved in the weekend’s events. On Friday night, a couple of dozen alums showed up for a coat-and-tie dinner with the entire team at the Catamaran Hotel. Everyone was treated to this dinner by Scott Petry. The event was created in order to allow the crew to do some quiet, calm, pre-race night bonding … and included just a few terse bits of speechifying. Everyone hopes that his will become an Aztec tradition, as it (the pre-race dinner) is at many of the larger, more storied programs across the country.
On Saturday, after the day’s racing, four shells were christened at the Aztec’s encampment on Mission Bay. Chris Carlson named a shell that he had helped to purchase after his two small children, Emilia and William. Chris, who has also given the team its state-of-the-art boat trailer, talked about what Aztec crew had meant to him and about how he was happy to be a part of its resurgence. Josh Gruenberg gave a speech about his very good friend and training partner for many years, Eric Barge. A shell was then christened – the brand new Varsity Lightweight 8 – in Eric’s honor.
Above: The entire team at the Friday night Pre-Race Banquet – hosted by Scott Petry.
But there was still more. Scott Petry purchased two 8s this season (from Cal – they had less than one year’s worth of wear on them), and they were being raced by the first Novice 8 and the Varsity 8 respectively. Both of the names had been kept secret = they were only put on the shells the night before and they were covered up while the crews raced them during Saturday’s events. Giving moving speeches about the two dedicatees, Scott proceeded to name one shell – “The John Denker” – after his Freshman coach, one of the great gentlemen of Aztec rowing history. Following that, Scott named the other shell “The Josh Gruenberg.” Josh rowed with Scott in the fastest and most successful crew in Aztec Lightweight racing history (a crew that went on to race at Henley), and – of course – he himself had just dedicated a shell! [See our separate News page re these christenings.]
Above: Scott Petry about to christen “The Josh Gruenberg” on Saturday at the Crew Classic.
Finally, that Saturday’s events ended with the yearly meeting of the H. Del Beekley Rowing Foundation. The meeting was held at the San Diego Yacht Club, which alum Gregg Buckley secured for the purpose. At that meeting, wherein plans for the future development of the program were discussed, a new Board of Directors was elected. It includes Eric Barge as President, and Dan Smith, Jon Singer, Bruce Branstine, Scott Petry, and Aaron Pollock. The meeting became a party after the yearly elections were held, and Gregg picked up the tab for about 60 people!
Once again, on Sunday, Dan Smith and assistants cooked and cooked for several hundred Aztec rowers, parents, and donors at the Aztec Tent. This annual BBQ created a line that was about 40 meters long that stuck out into the quadrangle that was created by all of the alumni tents. Ours was clearly “the place to be” and the Classic on Sunday.
Above: The Aztec tent – scene of Dan Smith’s yearly B-B-Q – before several hundred spectators showed up for the feast.
Over 50 alums came to see the races and to partake in the various social events of the weekend … too many to mention, really. We hope that this number will grow substantially in the future!