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Veteran coach prepares for changing of guard

Max Borghard watched in September as Hurricane Irene ravaged the Rutgers rowing team’s boathouse. He knew the storm’s capacity for destruction dealing with Hurricane Floyd in 1999.

So the Scarlet Knights waited out the flooding, taking in tow their boats and equipment.

“Rowers are very adaptable to the situation,” Borghard said.

The 17-year head coach continues to go through another transition. He lost a veteran-heavy team entering the 2012 season, instead relying on freshmen and sophomores.

So he turns to two of his seniors, Ellie Kleiman and Katie Quinn.

Kleiman competed during the summer with the Vesper Boat Club in Boathouse Row, Pa., one of the sport’s landmarks. She worked with the under-23 development program, winning “some pretty big events,” Borghard said.

Quinn, a coxswain like Kleiman, is a mainstay under Borghard.

“They bring a wealth of knowledge to the young rowers,” he said. “There’s probably 14 years of rowing experience between the two of them. That’s something you need to have on a team like this.”

Borghard said the turnover in rowing is natural, welcoming waves of walk-ons with little prior experience. He brings in seasoned rowers but still takes in his fair share of newcomers.

He points to their success in other high school sports as indicators of their athleticism. The transition period is not as demanding, Borghard said.

“Rowing is a relatively simple skill,” he said. “It’s not like learning to play soccer or lacrosse. If you like working hard and you like pushing yourself, you’re going to be fairly successful in rowing.”

Borghard pushed them in January, when the Knights trained in Tampa the week before the spring semester began. He used the fall to work on fitness, land training and technique.

He continues to look for leaders in the group and will likely find some during the spring season, when Rutgers competes in four races before the Big East Championships.

“It definitely opened up a lot more in terms of unknowns,” Borghard said. “You see someone like Jeremy Lin, who is coming off the bench for the [New York] Knicks and lighting the world on fire. It’s a reminder to give people opportunities and see what they can do.”

Borghard notices the changing landscape in the sport. The Ivy League plans to begin its own league championships in the near future. The Big East will react accordingly, sending its champion as an automatic qualifier to the NCAAs.

Most programs capped the season with the Eastern Sprints, which welcomed 18 teams toward the end of April.

The Big East Championships will likely take its place.

“We’ve got a young team this year, but we still want to strive to match last year’s results,” Borghard said. “As we get to the end of the season, we’ll be a lot faster than we were at the beginning of the season.”

Borghard grew up with the sport. The son of a rower, Borghard arrived at Rutgers in 1983 as a two-sport athlete. He rowed in the fall and flirted with track and field.

But ultimately the water won out — “I was brought up around the sport,” Borghard said — and he returned eight years after graduating.

“Rowing,” he said, “was the main season.”

Rutgers Rowing Team 2012 Timeline
Date Location Event
Jan. 5 Tampa Team training trip
March 24 Philadelphia Murphy Cup Regatta
March 31 Syracuse, N.Y. Quad meet against Boston
University, Cornell, Syracuse
April 14 Cherry Hill, N.J. Knecht Cup
April 28 Indianapolis Big East Double-Duel
May 13 West Windsor, N.J. Big East Championships

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