Men's Crew Gearing Up For Start of New Season

Feb. 28, 2007

SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The crew season begins this weekend in Sacramento after another long preseason of hard work. The Santa Clara Men's Crew team competes in their first regatta on March 3 against their biggest rival, Sacramento State.

"We've had a rivalry with them for awhile, it's just us and Sac State," junior Brendon Bula said. "It's gone back and forth, they beat us last year but we beat them in San Diego prior to that."

The Broncos are looking forward to facing off against the Sacramento State team again in March and coming home with another win. Other big races for the Broncos are happening in April and May this year. In April the team travels to the San Diego Crew Classic to race against some of the best teams in the western United States. This is a popular race for the Broncos with many parents and over fifty alumni traveling to San Diego to watch the events and support the team.

Later in the year, traveling to Philadelphia will be an enormous opportunity for the team. Last season, San Diego was as far away as the Broncos were able to go for a competition. This year Philadelphia will be an entirely different experience putting the Broncos up against some of the best teams in the nation. If the team does well in both San Diego and Philadelphia, there is a chance they could travel to Camden, New Jersey for the IRAs. This is the biggest and most important Regatta for men's collegiate crew teams with only the best teams in the nation showing up to compete.

February 24 was another big day for men's crew. The team celebrated its 43rd annual Black Velvet event. Started in 1965 this tradition celebrates the melting of the ice on the lakes and the start of the racing season. Now it's a night for the team to host its many alumni supporters, initiate the novice rowers into the team, and honor its coaches and varsity members. It's a time for the team members to rededicate themselves to the enormous amount of hard work they will do in the coming season.

As sophomore Stephen Smoker put it, "it's a little pat on the back, a little coming of age, some `pull up your boot straps and get ready for a wild ride,' and a little `if we can't do it, it can't be done!'"

The team certainly has a hard year ahead. The varsity men generally hold nine practices a week most of which require the team to be on the water by 5:45 a.m. Returning to school around 9 a.m., some of the team's members only have a few minutes to shower and change before they start a day full of classes and a normal course load. After their classes, generally around 4 p.m., the team is back in the gym either lifting weights, running, or working on the "Erg" - the rowing machine - for another hour or more before calling it a day. Saturday they are still working, having to be on the water by 6:15a.m. Sunday is their true day of rest with the whole day off from crew but often filled with homework and lots of sleep, preparing to start all over again Monday.

Wieslaw Kujda is the head coach for the men's varsity team. This is his second year coaching at Santa Clara but when it comes to crew he has done it all. Raised in Poland, Kujda has competed in several Olympics as well as coached the Polish and US national crew teams. He has also headed up several collegiate and competitive club teams around the country. Kujda works his team hard, but in talking to Smoker and Bula it's clear that they are more than willing to go through it all to get better.

"It's a part of you for the rest of your life," Smoker says. "It's a life style that affects everything you do." "There is a group of guys 45 to 60 years old where we race called the Masters, we beat on them and they kill us in races sometimes, it shows it definitely stays with you," added Bula.

March 3 is the Broncos first chance to show off all the work they have put in so far. There is little doubt that with the experience of Wieslaw Kujda behind them and the determination and strength of a committed varsity team the Broncos are poised to have one of their best seasons on record.