Fourth down and goal with just seconds on the clock. Bases loaded with two down in the bottom of the ninth. Down by one in the fourth quarter and only one shot at the hoop.
Every sport has them: those last-second, do-or-die moments. And every kid dreams of being the one who overcomes those obstacles, snatching victory from the cusp of defeat and emerging, triumphantly, a hero.
For most of us, those visions amount to just that: dreams. But for the USC men’s crew team, those dreams became a reality.
Last weekend, the USC men’s crew team — the Trojan Navy — hosted Head of the Harbor, a nine-boat, four-kilometer regatta held in the waters off the coast of Long Beach, Calif.
From the race’s onset, the Trojans were able to establish firm leads over opponents Loyola Marymount, UC Irvine, Arizona State, Long Beach State and UC Santa Barbara. But with only a few hundred meters left and time running out, one boat still stood ahead of the Trojan Navy’s eight-man A-squad: national powerhouse Orange Coast College.
“We were overlapped with them from start to finish,” said coxswain and vice captain Myles Gutenkunst. “And with 300 meters left we said, ‘We’re running out of real estate. It’s time to put the hammer down.’”
And down the hammer came. USC managed to pass Orange Coast and win by half a boat’s length, finishing in a time of 15:26 minutes to Orange Coast’s 15:27.
“The team looks great in comparison to years past. I’m very excited for this year,” said senior captain Ryan Hasvold. “In our first race, we came in second out of all the club teams, and then this race, a win at home was awesome.
“Spring is the really serious racing season for crew,” he added. “But this fall has been amazing so far.”
The USC crew is a club sport, revitalized after the varsity team, which had competed since the late 1940s, was disbanded in the early 1990s. But despite competing without school scholarships or preferential training schedules, the team finds ways to succeed.
“The win this past weekend, it was huge,” said All-American junior Kellen Proctor. “I think it was our first overall win of a regatta in six years or so, and it was our first against Orange Coast.”
“Maybe it paints a big target on our backs, but it’s a great springboard into the upcoming season,” he said.
The team’s recent addition of coach Danny Johnson has also played a large role in its resurgence. But Johnson is quick to point out that no matter how much he puts into the practices, in the end it comes down to the team’s performance on race day.
“The entire squad was impressive. They rowed very well and showed a lot of courage down the course,” Johnson said. “That’s a quality you just can’t fake and it’s absolutely essential for a championship squad.”
The Trojan Navy has two more races this fall before heading inside for training until the start of the spring crew season. Though the team is already starting to gel, it always welcomes new members.
“Anyone can do it,” Proctor said. “I didn’t start until the spring of my freshman year. If anyone wants to try it, come on out and we’ll teach them how. It’s a great sport — so much fun. Like drag racing in the water.”