Head of the Charles - Men's Alumni 8+

Racing again in Boston, with former teammates and those connected beyond my four collegiate years, was – to steal a phrase from my strokeman – “an amazing experience and an honor.”

When word of went out of the alumni men receiving a bid to race at Head of the Charles, it was exciting news. Not only would my alma mater be fielding it’s first collegiate men’s 8+ at the regatta since my sophomore year (2007), but us old guys would be able to test our mettle as well. As the preliminary e-mails were sent out, attempting to organize the crew – for the test run at MRC, and then for HOCR – I never expected to make the cut. I had been a good, if unspectacular coxswain for Marquette, from 2006-2010. Complete with momentary success but mostly mired in frustration. I thought for sure, other coxswains surrounding my time – and closer to the current Marquette community – would guide the newly assembled crew. However, after some diligent persuading from Gina, I sent my information along to Mike Thometz. Shortly thereafter, a man who had not steered a shell competitively for nearing 4 years, would be asked to do so on one of world’s most challenging courses.

In the early weeks of October I tried to downplay the significance of the race. Arguing it was just another Fall race, we are in way over our heads, and it’s not really about the race – it’s about the experience. Upon arriving in Boston, all of that changed.

It is said once you are an athlete; you will always remain an athlete.Even as a coxswain, this rang true. A surge of adrenaline hit me as we were rigging the shell on a beautiful Friday afternoon. Fueled by the surge we launched and completed a crisp, clean, and powerful practice session (with only two noticeable blemishes). The power was evident, and, as we looked at each other in the post-practice meeting, a realization dawned on us: we could actually do this.

Race Day. After 12 years in this sport (athlete and coach), there remains no day quite like it. Waking up that morning, I found myself nervous and restless – feelings I learned, indicated I was ready. As I double-checked the shell it was interesting to note the behaviors of our recently formed crew. Noticing, how just like me, they had returned to their competitor mentality, seemingly overnight. We knew we had the power, but as we launched the only words in my head were those of my 5-man (also my 5-man in 2007) “if we truly want a chance, we have to rate at racing speed.

As we were called to the start, I knew a strong beginning was critical. Washington College in front of us was beatable, but we had a string of great chasers behind us in Notre Dame, Hobart College, and Williams College. Coming to the line I called a countdown start, we drove across the line – at 33spm – well beyond our practice pace. We were overlapping Washington College before the first bridge, and passed them to the inside within 15 strokes of clearing the initial two bridges.Maybe we really could do this!

Ahead of us lay Columbia University. While behind ran the charge headed by Notre Dame. Perfectly in no-man’s land. A bit late we settled to a 31 ½ through the powerhouse stretch. As we approached the Week’s Bridge, Notre Dame had walked on us as we had walked on Columbia. As we drove through the most infamous bridge in rowing my strokeman noted ND had lost time through a bad line under the bridge. That theme would continue around the big curve and into the final bridge – affectionately known as Dead Man’s Curve. We nailed it – each time – and cruised our way into the finishing chute, following just behind Columbia and Lehigh (both, whom we bested in the end).

My crew was gassed – old and young – leaning on the gunwales gasping for breath. Each one reaching behind to congratulate each other on a phenomenal race. It was only back on land when the full realization of what we had done came to light. We were just 10 seconds away from receiving an automatic bid for 2015. Perhaps more importantly, however, it dawned on each of us, our time of 16:45.49 was the fastest any of us had ever come down the HOCR course.

So, to Zach, Rick, Dan, Adam, Roberto, Mike, Jake, and John, as I said at the racecourse: Thank you for my best ride down the Charles River. And if/when we receive the lottery bid for next year, I would be honored to ride with you again.

Alec S. Hurley
Marquette University – 2010
Head Coach of Women’s Rowing
Haverford College

 Watch the Marquette Men's Alumni 8+ race here!

Fall Wrap Up

What a great fall season! Throughout fall we've had some great races, the Varsity Men got the opportunity to race at the biggest race of the fall: The Head of the Charles, and we've taken home 15 medals; with a number of those coming from last weekend's regatta! Ending a season strong is exactly where we want to be when we look to head indoors to hibernate for the next few months of training.

Having coached for over 3 years now, it's been great to watch this club grow. We're close to pushing record numbers for the club with a total of 63 rowers & coxswains. That's a lot of bodies. With high numbers of novice this year and last, we have a very young team. This leaves a lot of room for us to continue to grow and succeed on the water. As a coach, I'm very excited. It's also been great seeing these rowers develop, win those medals, and learn how to be good oarsmen and women.

With that growth we have had a few growing pains; namely, running short on equipment. Luckily for us, we have some great friends across the Midwest that jumped in and helped us out. St. Charles brought us a shell and oars for an alumni race at MRC. They also drove up to pick up 2 of our boats for the Head of the Rock. Wisconsin trailered our boat and oars to the Head of the Charles. And then last weekend, GVSU, Purdue, and Lawrence brought us boats and oars so that we could race at the Head of the Eagle. Without all of this support, we wouldn't have been able to compete. We greatly appreciate the time and effort all these teams put in to help us out throughout the season. Thank you.

I'd also like to thank all the parents who jumped at the chance to donate or bring food to the regattas. We joke that the Novice are spoiled, back in our days we ate dirt and liked it, but the truth of it is that we're overwhelmed with the response and eagerness of the parents and are a bit taken aback by your generosity. There was even more coffee than I could drink at one regatta. Now that's saying something. If I didn't get the chance to thank you in person, please know that I, and the entire team, really appreciate it. It makes it much easier for the rowers, board members, and coaches to focus on the reason we're all there, to race, when we don't have to worry about where to get food or water throughout the day.

Finally, I'd like to thank all the coaches that helped build the program to what it is today and what it is still becoming. There were years where club numbers dwindled and it looked like the club may come to a close, but a number of you stuck in there and kept the club alive. In recent years, Zach and Diana helped rebuild the club with a number of us. Zach and I worked closely together to put a program together for the men; while Diana worked with Women's team to align the Varsity with the Novice with Gina and set things up for Bri to jump in, running the minute she stepped into the role. They put a lot of hours into this club, and want to see us succeed. Their efforts mean a lot to us all. As friends and co-coaches, it was hard to see them step down this year. Though I understand, and I can't say I'll miss you two leading the charge for the coaches to camp in 30 degree weather, I enjoyed working with you both the past 3 years. Thanks for everything! 

We'll close out this great fall season this coming week while we take advantage of every day our river will give us. We have one more week of chilly water time remaining before we remove the docks and do a deep clean of our erg room. We'll probably freeze, but we will all take advantage of the time - grabbing those extra meters while our river permits, working to perfect each stroke. Once we re-emerge from our winter cave, we'll be geared up and ready to break more personal and team records, bringing home even more hardware than we did this fall. Minds and bodies are in it: these rowers are ready to train. It's time to really dig in and earn our success. Here's looking forward to a great spring season!

Pain is Temporary. Victory is Forever.

- Coach Megan

Switching Sports

Jenn Varallo '16 (Varsity Women)

Major: Biomedical Sciences

Hometown: Blackwood, NJ

I was your Type A go-getter in high school. I was a part of almost every club, sport, and group there was at the school, but I had a particular love for field hockey. Field hockey had been a part of my life since elementary school and I became increasingly better at the sport as I aged. By the end of my high school career, I was a three-time defensive award winner, two-time all-conference award recipient, and an All South Jersey team member. Being a 5’ 3” muscly square of a person, the sport of field hockey seemed to be my calling and I planned to play in college. Schools recruited me, I made official visits, and I set my sights on a small college in Virginia which had a starting position waiting for me. My future college plans were practically set in stone by the winter of my senior year.

As you can infer by the existence of this post, my future plans weren’t as ironclad as I thought they were. Life happened during the second semester of my senior year. In a strange change of events, my senior summer was spent sending apologetic emails to my would-be Virginian field hockey coach explaining I had received a better offer from Marquette and would not be attending her school. In early August, I found myself registering for any open classes I could take in the fall, Google mapping where Milwaukee was actually located, and intensively Facebook stalking my new Marquette roommate. All of my previous academic and athletic plans were scrapped, and in late August I boarded a plane headed for Wisconsin and Marquette University Freshmen Orientation without any future plans at all.

Freshmen orientation was packed with your expected assortment of icebreakers and mixers as well as organization fests which urged incoming freshmen to get involved in the groups at the school. I quickly found out that field hockey wasn’t as popular in the Midwest as it was on the coasts and that Marquette did not have a club team or even an intramural field hockey league. With my sport being next to nonexistent in Wisconsin, I decided to go to the first novice rowing practice with some girls on my floor. My dad rowed in high school and I thought I should give it a shot. No matter how crazy it sounds, even after a year of novice rowing and another year of waking up at the crack of dawn as a varsity rower to go out on the water or kill myself on an erg machine, I will never regret going to that first novice practice and joining MU Crew.

Rowing has morphed me into a better athlete than I could have ever imagined of becoming. I have participated in sports since I have been five years old, but I have never been in this good of physical shape. Rowing has also mentally trained me to challenge myself and overcome my physical limits. The sport keeps pushing you to greater heights and makes you achieve feats you thought were impossible to achieve. Plus, it’s the ultimate team sport. I have been on basketball teams, softball teams, swimming teams, gymnastic teams, and, of course, field hockey teams, but they have never felt as unified and as teammate dependent as the rowing team. A small assortment of athletes always seems to stand out in those other sports, but in rowing no one is a stand out, well, except when you’re rowing a single. Your boat is only as strong as your weakest rower. You feed off your teammates and you want to push yourself for them. Your teammates become the people you want to be better for both on and off the water. The MU Crew Team consists of people who inspire me and individuals I am proud to call my best friends. Rowing has made me a better, more confident person and I know I would not have loved my college experience as much as I have without the sport and my team.

Although I did not play my dream sport, I did not go to my first choice school, and I did not stay true to my set future plans, I am so happy I came to Marquette and found MU Crew. I know I would not have had such an amazing college experience without the sport. This team means more to me than any other team I have ever been on. And, blog reader, since you have read this, I hope you walk away from this post understanding you do not have to be a rower to row. You could be a Type-A field hockey player who makes last minute college decisions and goes to college without any future plans, join the rowing team, and have the time of your life. If you have the humility to be a team player, the determination to always strive for the best, and the desire to become a better person, rowing could definitely be the sport for you. I promise you will not regret trying it!

Chicago Sprints 2014

Becca L'Hote '15 (Varsity Women)

Major: Psychology

Hometown: South Milwaukee, WI

Every year, Marquette enters the Chicago Sprints regatta hosted by the Lincoln Park Boat Club next to the Lincoln Park Zoo, a fun 1000m race to break up the summer. This summer, we were able to send two boats, a Open Men‘s 4+ and Open Women‘s 4+. Each boat was a mixture of sophomores through alumni, making it a fun experience. Upon arrival, massive downpour of rain began, but that did not stop us. All smiles and laughter, we rigged our boats and got ready to race in the pouring rain. Once the men launched, the women tried to take shelter under the Marquette Crew tent, but solace was short first call came quickly after. While launching the women’s boat, we cheered on the men and headed to the start. Both races came off with smiles, as rowing with our future and former Marquette team became an ultimate bonding experience. The men finished 10th overall, while the women placed 9th. The rain only made us grow closer, as we knew we were all doing it for each other. The day ended with a team lunch of barbecue as we all tried to dry off from the rain. Overall a great day for Marquette Crew!


Rowing in Puerto Rico!

Cristian Kuang '17 (Novice Men)

Major: Undecided

Hometown: San Juan, Puerto Rico

Before coming to Marquette, I had never rowed or even thought of rowing before. I fell in love with the sport, the mental and physical workout, and the competition. One of the things I looked forward to was being on the water, as I’m from Puerto Rico and aquatic activities were important to me. What I didn’t expect was how cold the water would be, but I soon acclimated to the cooler temperatures.

There was only one thing on my mind coming back home for the summer – where could I row in Puerto Rico? I got in contact with one of the alumni who rowed for Marquette and was also from Puerto Rico. He helped me get in touch with the rowing club located in San Juan.The boathouse was designed differently, and the majority of their boats were sculling shells with rubber grip oars. This was different from the sweep rowing in eights and fours I been used to at Marquette. The biggest difference was the water itself and the overall environment. The water was much warmer and calmer, and there was also the occasional cool breeze that helped cool off. After practice in the morning, you could go for a dip in the lagoon or walk a couple of minutes to the beach. During afternoon practices, if you are far enough into the harbor, you can even watch the sun set on the horizon. Rowing in Puerto Rico has truly been a great experience overall.


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