Holy Cross Rowing Diary: In The Shell With Al Monte

Al Monte

Diary Entries
April 28, 2006

April 28, 2006

Hi, my name is Al Monte. I am a junior, history major from Philadelphia, Pa. Rowing started for me when I was a freshman in high school and has been a driving force in my life ever since. Rowing is a sport where only the strong survive...literally! With nearly 20 hours per week revolving around the sport, drive, dedication and commitment become paramount among team members. Rowing becomes a lifestyle choice because the sport itself becomes almost all-consuming. It takes a certain type of individual to be on a rowing team because every part of your day from September through May revolves around your next practice and your commitment to the team. Eating and sleeping right become essential in order to maintain one's competitive edge. While rowing is a very team-oriented sport, the pressure on the individual is immense. Each and every team member is dependent on one another to reach and maintain an incredible level of fitness. Whether it be an extra morning workout, lift, or even just regular afternoon practice, every person is asked to perform at their best every day. No individual can win a race single-handedly, and no crew can win a race unless everyone in the boat is as committed as the person in front of and behind them. This is where training steps in and team camaraderie is formed. Members of a rowing team spend so much time together that a strong bond of mutual respect is created. Each team member is aware of what everyone else is going through because we are all going through it together; this forms the basis for that bond, a bond which carries each crew to the finish line. This bond culminates with our annual spring training trip to Gainesville, Ga., home of the 1996 Olympic rowing venue, where we spend seven days preparing for the spring season.

Our spring season officially started on March 18, in Camden, N.J., at the Jesuit Invitational Regatta. This regatta hosts programs such as Georgetown University, Boston College, St. Joseph's University, Fordham, Fairfield and Loyola (Md.) Universities, and of course the College of the Holy Cross. This season opening regatta remains the focus of every winter workout because of the tough competition faced here and also the fact the Holy Cross has never won the Jesuit Cup, the trophy provided to the winners of the men's varsity eight event. After coming off of a very strong season last year with medals at the New England Rowing Championship and the ECAC National Invitational, a 10th place finish at the Eastern Sprints, a prestigious top-tier regatta, as well as being ranked 16th on the U.S. Rowing National Collegiate poll, we entered our season opener with much confidence. We knew the battle would be between ourselves, Georgetown and St. Joe's. With 1000 of 2000 meters to go in the race we sat one boat length down to both Georgetown and St. Joe's. Remaining calm, we kept the focus within our boat and moved into second place, defeating St. Joe's by just over two seconds while simultaneously falling to Georgetown by five seconds. Obviously, this was not the outcome that we had hoped for, but the maturity that our crew showed was the crowning achievement of the day. The varsity lightweight eight and second varsity eight finished third behind two very strong crews from Georgetown and St. Joseph's. Later that afternoon, after very intense morning racing, we went into battle yet again against the University of Delaware. The main focus of this dual was the varsity lightweight eight race in which a team bid for the lightweight events at the Eastern Sprints was at stake. The winner of the varsity lightweight eight would then be eligible to participate in the Eastern Sprints Regatta in May. The Holy Cross lightweight eight unfortunately was unable to defeat the University of Delaware and lost their team bid to the Sprints. In other racing, the varsity heavyweight eight, my boat, and second varsity heavyweight eight were victorious over a very much improved Delaware heavyweight squad. While not the results we were looking for, this proved to be a strong start to the season.

On March 25, our team began its dual racing season, taking on crews from the University of Rhode Island and Boston College. We swept all events except the second freshman eight, which was edged out by only two seconds. The following week, the Holy Cross men went into battle yet again against NERC foes Wesleyan University and USCGA for the perennial awarded Sullivan Cup. The team again came out of this meeting unscathed winning all events, while retaining the Sullivan Cup, the trophy awarded to the winner of the men's varsity eight event.

Our first championship race of the season came on April 2 with the Worcester City Championship. This event included crews from WPI, Clark, Assumption, and of course Holy Cross. This race has been an important event since the inception of Holy Cross rowing back in the 1960s because of the friendly rivalry that has existed between WPI and Holy Cross in the men's varsity eight event. We rowed a very solid race against a much improved Tech crew winning by nearly 10 seconds. This victory marked the sixth year in a row Holy Cross has won the event. We also were able to capture victories in the varsity four-with-coxswain, second varsity eight and the first freshman eight. All in all, it was a great day for Holy Cross rowing.

For the first time on the weekend of April 8 and 9, we traveled to the nationally renowned Knecht Cup Regatta, held annually in Camden, N.J. This meet would prove to be filled with far more competition than we had faced up until this point, with 16 other varsity programs competing the varsity eight event. After winning our preliminary heat, we secured ourselves a top seed in the grand final, the final event where the top six out the 16 crews would race in order to find the champion. After rowing what I would consider a sub-par race, we came up about four seconds short of beating perennial power-house Temple University. The highlight of the day would come with the freshmen eight grand final where the entry from Holy Cross would come out victorious over a very tough crew from Lehigh University. The lightweight varsity eight also competed in the regatta coming in third in their division behind St. Joseph's and Georgia Tech. While the weekend was a mix of both high and low points, we had to refocus our attention to our next race with NERC foes Trinity College and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. This week of practice focused on regaining our composure which we lacked in the finals of the Knecht Cup.

This race would prove to be one of our closest races of the season. Trinity College, ranked 12th nationally on the U.S. Rowing Collegiate Coaches Poll, is most definitely our biggest rival in the New England Rowing Conference. Last year our crews were within one to three seconds of each other on any given day, so I knew this race was going to be a barn burner! I was proven right. In the varsity eight event, the separation between our crews was a mere 1.4 seconds. In the second varsity eight, the margin was 1.6 seconds. Crews from the University of Massachusetts were represented in both events as well, both securing third place finishes. While these were not the results we wanted, as a team we then knew where we stood in relation to our biggest rival. Also, I was pleased because my boat regained its maturity and composure, battling Trinity with great intensity every stroke but doing it with technique. We will next see Trinity at the New England Rowing Championship on May 7, and again for the ECAC National Invitational on May 13 and 14.

Our last regular season regatta was last weekend against crews from Tufts University, Colby College, Connecticut College and Ithaca College. Again, the crews from Holy Cross came out on top in all events except the varsity four-with-coxswain, who rowed a very tough race against Connecticut College's top four rowers, losing by only two seconds. That afternoon, the Holy Cross crews would go into battle again against crews from RIT and UNH. On the varsity level all of our crews were victorious.

We have had impressive results thus far this season, and I could not be more excited to enter the championship season as a member of this crew!

Until Next Time,
Al Monte


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