SANTA CALRA, Calif. – For Mark Bluth, a high school football player, he did not see rowing as a sport until he tried it himself. He (football) and his twin brother (rowing) worked to convince their parents why their own sport was more difficult. When Bluth tried to pick up rowing after football season ended, he was hooked. Bluth (MB) shared with SantaClaraBroncs.com (SCB) how it all began and his hopes for this year's season.
SCB: What sparked your interest in rowing to begin with?
MB: What first sparked my interest in rowing was my twin brother's rant about the sport. He started rowing his junior year of high school while I didn't start until the summer before my senior year. I still played football at the time and we would come back from our respective practices and tell our parents why each of our sports were more difficult. He had a convincing argument. So when I was finally finished with football I decided to pick up this "sport" for the summer and see how I liked it. From the beginning I came upon this latent desire to push myself in this sport that few seek or understand. The interesting thing about it is that I continued to row in college, but my brother decided to change his focus. If it wasn't for his initial interest which he lost and consequently transferred to me, I would have missed out this life-shaping sport. He never lets me forget that he was once a better rower than I.
SCB: How would you say the team chemistry is? Is that important in doing well in races?
MB: Team chemistry is always important, but in collegiate rowing where each boat must be powered by at least a pair, the word "team" takes a new meaning. I cannot row my best if I don't think others are trying to row at their best. Once this distrust starts, it circulates and regenerates each morning until the whole boat chooses to change it. The way the team practices together is usually determined by how they interact everywhere else. So once the rowers have a strong foundation of technique, the chemistry within the boat is dictated by how they hang out together, go out together and for the lucky few, live together. For Santa Clara, our team chemistry is unparalleled. We are the most various group of individuals who have this common ground, and we understand it. The ones who stayed from our novice year have grown quite close, and I have been lucky enough to be able to live with some of them for the next season.
SCB: You have extensive rowing experience. How is college rowing different than club rowing?
MB: One distinguishing characteristic of collegiate rowing is the capacity to take walk-ons. Some people don't discover rowing until after playing another sport for a few years or until college, which is what happened to me. The top rowing universities have rowers who have been with the sport for several years, but the majority of rowing schools have this greater number of walk-ons which distinguish it from club rowing. Clubs have an established membership so the majority of its members have been rowing for numerous years, but in college, there are athletes new to a shell (rowing boat) and who are trying to catch up with the ones who have established rowing careers. In rowing, age does not indicate experience, and this situation manifests itself mostly in collegiate rowing.
SCB: What are your hopes for your team this upcoming season?
MB: Our upcoming season will be much more successful than the recent season. We had an extremely young team this past year, which has since improved in technique, endurance and comprehension of the sport. We also have a large novice class rising to varsity, which will add more depth to the boats. The greater depth in boat line-ups increases the competition within the team making the program overall more competitive. I also hope that we can have another large rising novice team, which will set a tradition for a high retention rate among the novice to varsity team. My (junior) class is large, as is the sophomore class, so another large class will set the path for a more successful and competitive Santa Clara rowing program. Our goal for this season is to win our Western Inter-collegiate Rowing Association Championship (WIRA) at Lake Natoma in Sacramento.