The 2014 spring racing season got off with a bang on Saturday the 22nd of February on our home waters of Mission Bay with the second running of the Gruenberg Cup. After surrendering the cup to USC’s Varsity 8 last year – the year of its inception – our Varsity 8 won a convincing, 3 1/2 length victory over both the Trojans of USC and the Long Beach State 49ers. [The featured image here is of the winning Varsity 8 with Josh Gruenberg, after whom the cup is named.]
The day began with the second Novice race. Our Aztec yearlings succumbed to Long Beach State while defeating USC in this first event. While this was a bit of a disappointment for the pro-Aztec crowd, good things were to happen very soon thereafter.
In the second race of the day, Novice Coach Julia Gamache’s first Novice 8 won in convincing fashion. Leading all of the way down the Sea World Channel course, the Aztec Novices won handily, defeating both USC and Long Beach State (who ran a dead heat for second place) by a whopping 35 seconds (about ten boatlengths)!!!!!
Taking their first shirts ever, the Novices showed a great deal of poise due to the fact that they had to sit at the starting line for almost 15 minutes to wait for a practice (being held by a rival school) to clear the race course. This delay did not seem to phase the young Aztecs who were not only long in the water, but rowed with great skill in their first race ever (none of our first year people have rowed in high school … thus, they are a “genuine novice” crew).
Then came an excellent, stroke-for-stroke race between our Varsity 4 (composed of Kevin O’Mara, Stephen Lyons, Colin Byrne, Chris Huffstetler, and Coxswain Maddie Homa) and Long Beach State’s “hot” Varsity … a crew that defeated 15 other crews in the fall – losing only to Stanford up at the Head of the American River Regatta in Sacramento. The Aztecs lost the race by about two feet to a much more experienced crew … but this is something that bodes well for the future of the program.
Then, the San Diego State Varsity Lightweight 8 – defending West Coast Champions – drove home to victory over Long Beach State and an Aztec Lightweight Novice 8 in just amazing fashion! Winning by an incredible 45 seconds, the Aztecs weren’t challenged at all in the race. In fact, they did not have to sprint at the finish. Coxed by Selysa Marshall, who coxed the 2013 West Coast Championship Lightweight 8 to victory, half of the crew in this 8 is different from last year’s extremely successful bunch. Stroke Mike Buckel (last year’s H. Del Beekley Trophy Award Winner) rowed as a heavyweight last season … #5 man Philip Dobaj did not row last year … #4 Royce Cumming and Bow man Scott Gerdes are up from last year’s novice program. Only #7 Matt Stewart, #6 Blake Rhoades, # 3 Jacob Stauts, and #2 Randy Beltran are back from the dominating ’13 championship season.
Then came the premiere event of the day. Starting off a bit roughly off the line, the Aztec Varsity 8 settled down at about 500 meters into the race, and slowly exerted their authority over USC (again – defending Gruenberg Cup Champions) and Long Beach State. By the half way point, the Aztecs had open water on the trailing two crews. By the finish, SDSU enjoyed an advantage of more than three boat lengths. Having lost the cup last year by about the same margin, this victory indicated that a profound change has come to the fortunes of our heavyweight program.
The Varsity 8 consisted of Kris Corley at Stroke, Kyle Winchester at 7, Ryan Williams at 6, Brandt Watson at 5, Bernie Aparicio at 4, Marshall Kanute at 3, Mitchell Evans at 2, and Kameron Kennington in the Bow. This was the first cup victory of any kind for an Aztec Heavyweight Varsity in quite some time. And given that there are no Seniors in this crew, the future looks bright for SDSU Men’s Crew.
Taken together, the day was a stellar first time performance with which to begin our season. The combined Aztec navy is now seven 8s strong, and in no danger of getting any smaller in the near future!