Rowers Race Up and Down the River

Rowers Race Up and Down the River

By: Alexandra Hackett

TAMPA, Fla. - The rising sun: the perfect backdrop on this morning. The Hillsborough River: the perfect spot for teams in training.

“We’re pretty frozen up north,” said Colgate assistant coach Matt Hanig.

Louie Socha is among hundreds of rowers here in Tampa this month.

“We got up at 5:30 am, got on the water at 6.” He said.

While Yale has the oldest collegiate rowing tradition in the nation, Louie has only been doing it for two years.

“It’s tough,” Socha said. “It’s a lot of work.”

Eight guys to a boat, or as they call it, a shell, take to the water for hours working on rhythm, cadence and form.

“These guys are absolute warriors with the amount of work they do.” Hanig said.

Hanig’s team from Colgate University hopes this trip gives them a leg up on the competition. Training in New York is tough this time of year. There’s a foot of ice on the lake.

“It’s really a great training destination. We really enjoy being down here. The other caliber of teams being down here is terrific for us.” He said.

Northern colleges started their spring training here back in 1941, first as somewhat of a secret to get the athletes in shape sooner.

“It’s basically about working as a team and it is the ultimate team sport,” said Hanig.

But as soon as more coaches caught on, the Hillsborough River created a magnet for dozens of teams.

“Really there’s nothing like working with the guys in the boat, really just an incredible experience.” He said.

Despite the spring break, they don’t get much down time while they’re here, Louie and the other rowers are focused on a fast 2000 meters finishing in under six minutes.

“We start racing when we get back.” Socha said.

The Stewards Foundation organizes the spring training in Tampa. The dock fees paid by each visiting school go to a program being launched this summer to teach urban youth about rowing.