Men’s heavyweight rowing maintains success despite COVID-19
Men’s heavyweight rowing maintains success despite COVID-19

Men’s heavyweight rowing maintains success despite COVID-19

The team continued where it left off before the pandemic, winning or placing high in all of its races this spring.

by Caroline York
| 20/5/22 at 01:05

The heavyweight rowing team just fell short in the Bill Cup at Boston University this weekend.

Source: Lent by Marc Sevastopoulo

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The men’s heavyweight team has unlocked the key to success in recent years. Since head coach Wyatt Allen joined the program eight years ago, the team has continued to rise in the national rankings.

After missing two seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the team has had a dominant season this year, winning three out of its four spring regattas. The team won the Alumni Cup against Holy Cross College, Columbia University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on April 2nd. After losing to No. 1 Yale University at the Olympic Ax Regatta, the Brown University team won the Atalanta Cup. Most recently in a home meeting Big Green beat No. 6 Syracuse University and Boston University at Lake Morey.

The team has come a long way over the past eight seasons under Allen’s leadership. When Allen joined the program during the 2014-15 academic year, the team had a losing record and did not have much success history. They were placed at the bottom of the Ivy League and were never close to winning the Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championships. That changed, however, when Allen decided to come to Dartmouth.

Allen knows how to create success because of his own accomplishments. He graduated from the University of Virginia in 2001 as captain of the men’s rowing team. In 2004, he represented the United States at the Summer Olympics in Athens, where he won gold. Four years later, he returned to the Beijing Olympics and took home bronze. He was also the US Rowings 2004 and 2007 Male Athlete of the Year.

In 2009, Allen accepted his first coaching position at the University of Washington, where he helped the rowing team win a national championship. The following year, he moved to the University of California, Berkeley as a new coach for three seasons. He said he decided to move to Dartmouth from these historically powerful programs because of the team’s potential.

“I was attracted to Dartmouth because it had all the pieces to build a nationally competitive program,” Allen said. “[We have a] large bodies of water on the Connecticut River, a supportive alumni base burned up the program, and an athletic department supporting the rowing programs. “

According to Allen, the rowers from his first season as coach at Dartmouth were willing to work to raise the team. Their heavy lifting enabled the program to recruit strong talent for future teams, and this progress has been exacerbated as current rowers continue the process by working on recruiting talented recruits.

The rowers also attribute the team’s success to its inclusive culture. Even on such a large team, the rowers consider themselves friends both inside and outside the boathouse.

Coxswain Sammy Houdaigui ’25, who also heads the U.S. rowing junior national team in 2021, said he came to Dartmouth because of the strength of the team’s culture.

“The team does everything, including meals, studies, hangs out and lives together,” Houdaigui said. “We’re stronger for it.”

And even though the team is competitive, they all recognize that they are working towards the same goal.

“The boathouse is a competitive environment, but we are all oriented around a common goal that makes it easy to get to practice every day,” said Jacob Hudgins ’23. “After racing with each other in the water, we’re all close when we’re done.”

The university boat is led by the duo Hudgins and his brother, Miles Hudgins ’25.

“It’s hard to put into words, but when you sit at the starting line and you see your blood brother next to you – you get a confidence you do not get anywhere else,” Miles Hudgins said. “Because Jacob missed his first two seasons, it’s both our first spring season, which’s great.”

After two missed seasons, the team has not lost any of its motivation. Miles Hudgins explained that team members are excited to be at training at. 6:30 and to run race after working two years for this season.

During the pandemic, team members had to train on their own during the lockdown. Even when team members were not on campus, they continued to train with the team’s goals in mind. According to Houdaigui, with COVID-19 restrictions, the team began training more in single boats, which the rowers realized they could use as a new extra training tool.

In terms of success, Jacob Hudgins pointed to the depth of the team. He says there has been significant progress in the lower boats that have pushed the program forward. He added that the team is mentally strong and that all the boats are really committed to making the team better.

“Our coaches always emphasize that the team’s motto is ‘hungry and humble,'” Houdaigui said. “Although we were successful in the fall, we focused on the future because we were not yet happy with what we have done.”

Houdaigui acknowledges that while the team’s boathouse is separate from the physical center on campus, the team appreciates the great campus support they receive. The team does not have large home conventions, but the support from campus is not overlooked.

This support, in turn, encourages them to make their alma mater proud as they build on the success they have enjoyed in recent years.

“Dartmouth guys train and compete with a chip on the shoulder,” Allen said, “[because Dartmouth] does not have the track record of success that the historic top programs have. ”

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