It’s not how you start but how you finish.
The UC Davis men’s varsity 8 rowing team followed this saying to a tee in the grand final race at the American Collegiate Rowing Association National Championships in Oak Ridge, Tenn. on May 24.
In last place 1,250 meters into the race, UC Davis used a late spurt over the final 750 meters to overtake four other competitors to finish in second place and grab the silver at nationals.
“The comeback we had in the grand finals was something that had been in the making all year,” said 7 seat Seth Weil. “We trained to be a fast finishing crew. By this time we had worked out all of the kinks in order to be in a strong position to use our speed in the last half of the race.“
The nine-person boat was comprised of seniors Weil and Caton Mande (3 seat), juniors Andrea Gutierrez (coxswain), Chad Christiansen (Stroke), Cooper Johnson (2 seat) and Kelly Hughes (bow), and sophomores Brandon Nuckles (4 seat), Will Wiersig (5 seat) and Pat Geddes (6 seat). Senior John Chase was an alternate.
UC Davis competed in a quarterfinal and semifinal heat before advancing to the finals.
The top three finishers in each quarterfinal race advanced to the next round. The Aggies were able to do this by coming in at second behind Michigan.
In the semifinals, the top three crews advanced again. UC Davis accomplished this as well, finishing in second place to Grand Valley State.
In the finals, all of the teams started off hot. UC Davis found itself in last place through the first half of the race. A strong finish allowed the Aggies to come in at second behind Michigan to win the silver.
For coach Sam Sweitzer, the win was all about the approach of the team.
“The entire season we had an offensive attitude in that we had to attack our competition,” Sweitzer said. “We just couldn’t let them have the race.“
It was no doubt that the killer mentality paid off for the Aggies. It did not, however, come without the intense training and conditioning that the rowers endured throughout the entire season.
“We train six days a week from 6 to 8:15 a.m. from two weeks before school starts until the third week of May,” Weil said. “Practice is year round, with varying emphasis placed on different types of endurance work.“
The second-place finish comes one year after UC Davis finished in seventh place in the petite division.
“To move up to the grand finals was a huge leap,” Sweitzer said. “I told them that medaling was obtainable but pulling out silver shows just how badly they wanted to win. This is the best finish Davis has had at a national regatta.“
MAX ROSENBLUM can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.