SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The Santa Clara University men's and women's rowing programs celebrated the tradition of Black Velvet on Sat., Feb. 25, 2012. The celebration marks the beginning of the spring rowing season.
"The event was initiated by East Coast rowing teams, who spent their winters training indoors while the lake or river they trained on was frozen over, " explained Santa Clara head women's rowing coach John Wojtkiewicz. "The term 'black velvet' refers to the appearance of the water in early spring (usually dark and flat) when the ice finally breaks and crews can start venturing back out onto the water. The tradition celebrates a return to the water, an end of the somewhat dreary winter-indoor training and the beginning of the racing season."
Now in the 47th year of men's rowing, the Broncos adopted this tradition in the earliest years of the program and it has been going strong ever since. While both teams remain on the water year-round and the doldrums of winter-indoor training are minimal, Wojtkiewicz and head men's crew coach Wieslaw Kujda believe it is an important tradition, recognizing the six months of training the athletes have put in to prep for the racing season.
This year Santa Clara's event was split into two parts. In the afternoon Univeristy President Michael Engh, S.J. blessed the rowing fleet. In front of many alumni, parents, friends and administrators, Father Engh read quotes from John Wooden and Pope John Paul II. He then blessed the student-athletes, coaches and boats for a safe and successful racing season.
The second event was a banquet in the evening. Almost 200 people gathered to sit and eat while Wojtkiewicz and Kujda gave their season prospectus and seniors talked about their time on the Mission Campus.