Welcome Picnic for the Novices of 2013-2014

On Saturday, the 21st of September, the Varsity team hosted a get-together with first-year Coach Julia Gamache’s Novice Team. After rowing in the barge for a few days – the same ritual (though not the same barge) through which generations of Aztecs have gone – the new Novices were treated to their first experiences in racing shells over the course of the previous week. Rowing during two early morning practices that Saturday (necessitated by the size of the Novice Team!), the second “shift” of Novices arrived at the boathouse from the water to find the Varsity in evidence, and a bit of a “party” awaiting them.

This year’s recruitment effort involved putting an 8 oared shell on campus for the first time in several years (the process of doing so having to be re-negotiated, after several years without one), hanging several hundred posters around campus, passing out over 2,000 recruitment postcards, and holding two large meetings = eventuating in the largest Novice class in years. On the first Thursday of the academic year, over 70 Aztecs attended the first meeting …… and a week later, about 30 came to the second. Then too, about three dozen young men and women indicated that they were interested, but that they could not attend the meeting times due to class conflicts. All-in-all, about 80 people then made it down to the waters of Mission Bay to try their hand at rowing. After a month here, there were 54 young Aztecs who had paid their entry level dues and stuck to Coach Gamache’s training program up to the time of this picnic. This constitutes 6 full 8s of Novices … just about twice as many as last year’s class!

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Above: Scott Gerdes’ speech to the Novices.

After cleaning the shells and oars, and putting them away for the rest of the weekend, the Novices were welcomed to the Team with a speech by Varsity Team President Scott Gerdes. Scott’s presentation not only touched upon the classic themes of hard work, discipline, and commitment that all rowers hear each and every year, but included something more – something personal. Scott noted that at 5’7″ he was the smallest person on the entire team … and that in his first semester of rowing (Fall ’12), he rowed in the third Novice 8. Then, when the numbers wore down a bit, he was not chosen to row in the Lightweight 4+ that raced in the last several Head Races of that fall. In fact, he was asked to row in a pair – for three miles – and on the Port side (Scott rows Starboard) at the San Diego Fall Classic.

And, yet, he kept up with it … worked extremely hard in the weight room, on his general fitness, and on his rowing ability over the course of the winter months of 2012-2013 (he is now a Sculling Instructor at the Aquatic Center). Scott ended up right in the middle of the competition for a seat in the 1st Novice 8 of the ’13 spring season. After he earned the Bow seat in that crew, he was a part of a season that included defeating 15 West Coast crews, earning several medal level finishes, and capturing a substantial number of shirts. His crew eventually ended up just three seats out of the Bronze Medal at the W.I.R.A. Championships in Sacramento. And, given that the entire crew was made up of “real Novices” = no high school rowers in the group = that 8 was the fastest “Genuine Novice Crew” in the West!

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Above: Connor O’Gara delivers a spike during the volleyball game.

Scott’s 2012-2013 Novice 8 earned the coveted “Winningest Crew of the Year” award. It’s name was etched onto the perennial trophy that follows the fortunes of SDSU Crew through the years. Having pointed this all out, Scott’s speech finished with an entreaty from him to the young Aztecs to “stick with it” because “you never know what you can accomplish … until you try!”

Then, the Varsity Team handed out fall racing shirts to the Novices. In all, just over 50 Novices are still with us after a month on the water … and both their numbers and their size (lots of tall, tall people) bode well for the future of the program. Photos of both the Varsity and the Novice teams were then taken …… and one of the entire team (the Featured Image for this page) was taken.

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Above: About 2/3 of the new Novice Team, with Coach Gamache on the right.

After that, a spread of food – provided by the Varsity – was laid out, and the two teams interacted in a casual way. Introducing themselves to each other, one at a time, both teams seemed to warm to event. Then, Connor O’Gara of the Varsity pulled out a volleyball net, and a pick-up volleyball game ensued.

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Above: More ‘hangin’ with the Aztecs.’

At first dividing themselves up into a Varsity Volleyball Team and a Novice Volleyball Team, the guys eventually intertwined together into a mixed game …… while footballs were thrown around, and people just generally had a great time of it.

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Above: And more from the picnic.

Now, the teams have separated again to some extent, with the Varsity practicing in the early hours before classes and the Novices practicing at the other end of the day.  (Both groups cannot practice at the same time, as there are just TOO MANY AZTECS for that to occur!!!!!!!!). They will come together to race in Head Races in about a month.

Note To Alums and Parents: The Following is the Fall Racing Schedule …… which, you will note, includes two home head races =

October 26th         =         Head of the American River (Varsity Only)             –        Sacramento

October 27th         =         Row for the Cure (Novices Only)                                –        Mission Bay

November 10th     =         San Diego Fall Classic                                                   –        Mission Bay

November 17th      =         Head of the Harbor                                                       –        L.A. Harbor (Wilmington)

We hope to see any and all of you at these races. As was the case last season, there will be an Aztec Tent at each race, and snacks for all of the rowers, coxswains, and SDSU Men’s Crew fans!


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