Crew team rows to last-minute victory

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.

Comeback · The USC men’s crew team overtook Orange Coast College at the Head of the Harbor regatta on Nov. 15 with 300 meters remaining. - Mannat Saini | Daily Trojan

Comeback · The USC men’s crew team overtook Orange Coast College at the Head of the Harbor regatta on Nov. 15 with 300 meters remaining. - Mannat Saini | Daily Trojan

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.”

Hasvold agreed.

“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.”

9 replies
  1. L
    L says:

    I think what the men’s rowing team is doing is awesome. I am part of the USC women’s rowing team and I see the dedication these Oarsmen give everday to succeed and it truly is something each should be harolded for, those who belittle their efforts do not fully comprehend what they give up nor do they understand the life skills rowing offers in helping to shape well-rounded individuals. Their committment to the team and practices are just as demanding as that of any varsity program at USC.

  2. R
    R says:

    I rowed with the USC women’s crew team in the 90’s. We were all shocked to lose the men’s varsity team in 1994. Glad to see you guys are making a comeback!

  3. Bob Conti
    Bob Conti says:

    As an alum who attended USC in the late 70’s, early 80’s, I remember when we had a varsity crew, and was kinda surprised to learn that it is now a club sport. I’m married to a rower (Penn) and I know what a driven sport it can be, having started doing it myself. And for a club team to be able to beat OCC, wow, really great accomplishment. When I wrote on the DT oh so many years ago, we made a concerted effort to cover teams that usually don’t get a lot of the glory. There’s not a lot of glamor in a sport that has you up before light breaks on a cold, damp morning when you’d rather be staying in bed. All the rowers I know do it for the love of the sport. So I think a few inches in the DT every now and then is damn well appropriate.

  4. Trojan
    Trojan says:

    Kyle S. and Michael,

    It’s a sports section; no real news will be reported. News is located in the front of the DT or in the LA Times.

    Also, club sports are frequently mentioned in the DT. Recently I’ve seen articles from Dragonboat, Ping pong, equestrian, frisbee, lacrosse, hockey, rugby, etc.

  5. Oarsman
    Oarsman says:

    Another thing to consider – the USC Men’s Crew (a club sport) competes against varsity crews as well as other club teams. Think of it this way: if our club water polo team beat our varsity water polo team, would you think that was “newsworthy?” Would it be “newsworthy” that we have rowers being scouted for the US National Team? I love and support our varsity sports as much as anyone, particularly football and basketball (men and women), but I agree there should be a wider spread to coverage in the sports section. I’m also just happy seeing an article about us in the DT after years of seeing articles about the Women’s Crew (even though they are great).

  6. Spieler
    Spieler says:

    Michael- you obviously cared enough to click on the link and post a comment. I doubt you have ever done anything in your life even remotely as challenging as rowing. Get a life and don’t try to belittle others because you are unhappy with your own life.

    OCC Rower- I’m glad someone is able to understand the struggles a rebuilding team has to go through. OCC is a great team and I look forward to racing you again this weekend. May the best crew win.

    Kyle S.- I understand your point, but I would like to make a few comments that might change your mind.
    1- The USC Men’s Crew won all three events at the Long Beach regatta the week after Head of the Harbor. The team is actually good and making some noise in the world of rowing.
    2- The ping pong team also had an article in this edition of the DT, so other club teams get their fair share of attention, too.

  7. Kyle S.
    Kyle S. says:

    I agree with OCC Rower about the respect team members deserve for their daily routines to keep their team going. However, I agree with Michael in that this really isn’t newsworthy. Either focus exclusively on varsity teams or give equal attention to other club teams.

  8. OCC Rower
    OCC Rower says:

    I care. You wake up at 5:00 am every morning six days a week to workout and then do it a second time in the dark that afternoon. Come home, eat, do homework, and repeat all over again. Not all of us have the luxury of commenting on college newspaper articles all day. I have tremendous respect for these guys. Way to go men.

  9. Michael Grout
    Michael Grout says:

    Please give us real news. I don’t believe anyone cares about the men’s rowing team. This seems like a vain attempt to get cheap publicity.

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