Rutgers Men’s Crew Team strokes into 150th anniversary
Although Rutgers is often remembered for hosting the first college football game, one student sport is five years older than the football team itself.
The Rutgers Men’s Crew Team is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, head coach Steve Wagner said. It was one of the first 10 crew teams in the country and is older than Princeton University’s rowing team.
New Brunswick had several rowing teams in the 1800s. Rutgers Men’s Crew Team began with competing against local teams before moving onto other collegiate teams.
According to the team’s website, the team at the time held six-mile races along the Raritan River with six-oared boats. In 1870, Rutgers hosted its first intercollegiate competition against Harvard, the top-ranked amateur team at the time.
The program has since expanded and fostered individual as well as team development, Wagner said.
“Over the years, Rutgers has had very successful crews with a number of people going onto the Olympics,” he said.
Two of the most famous members include Chuck Logg and Tom Price, who won gold medals for their performance at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, Finland.
According to the website, the two trained together for only three months before proceeding to qualifying rounds. The team bested the field by only three seconds in the final round, winning the gold.
Others have become part of the national team and served as coaches for the national and Olympic teams.
In 2003, the entire team was invited to the Henley Royal Regatta, an international rowing competition in England and was selected for finals.
The current men’s team has 42 members who train six days a week. The women’s team, also about 47 members, began as a club in 1974 and became varsity in 1977.
Wagner said crew is unique because it is a team sport with no individual statistics.
“You can’t measure who hit a home run [or] scored a goal,” he said. “It attracts a certain type of individual who works hard for the common good.”
Brendan Striano, a captain of the team, started rowing in high school. He agreed that the sport is team-centered. Each member has to depend and synchronize with the whole.
They have team-building exercises to coordinate among members, said Striano, a School of Arts and Sciences senior.
Each boat has eight members that row and a ninth member that steers the boat, called the coxswain. The sport requires a high amount of strength and endurance.
Most team members come to Rutgers without rowing experience, Wagner said. They train almost daily to build up their knowledge of the sport.
Striano said the practices, held from 6:45 to 9 in the morning, are exhausting.
“They’re pretty high intensity,” he said. “But we don’t have to care about anything else other than practice every week.”
Wagner said rowing begins the first week of school to the end of the season in June. The team stops training on the Raritan River in November, but stays in shape with rowing machines, or ergometers, and an annual visit to a large rowing team in Tampa, Fla.
They have competitions about once a week in the spring. So far this year, they visited Philadelphia and Princeton, but the sport brings them all over.
Although the organization hosts a spring dinner each year, Wagner said, it chose to expand the dinner this year with 500 alumni and guest speakers such as Logg and silver medalist Fred Borchelt.
Striano believes the sport has required him to be well disciplined, a skill that has translated to other aspects of his life.
“It sets you up for success in a lot of ways,” he said.
He hopes to continue rowing after graduation and follow the path of previous Rutgers rowing alumni.
“It’s a big matter of pride to be part of a program with such an illustrious history,” he said.