March 29, 2012
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -
The Navy heavyweight rowing team will open the 2012 season this weekend with a pair of events. The varsity eight will head west to compete at the prestigious San Diego Crew Classic on March 31 and April 1, while Navy's other varsity boats, as well as freshman crews, will take part in the Occoquan Sprints on Sunday.
Led by a core group of seniors, the Mids return a total of six members of their varsity crew, including seniors Matt Fluhr, Kyle Browne, Chris Gear and Will Race, which will be entering their third season in the boat.
"We really asked a lot of those four individuals as youngsters because we moved them right into our varsity boat. We kind of built that crew around those four young guys in 2010," said head coach Rick Clothier.
"I'm excited and optimistic heading into the start of the season and we're probably going to go where these seniors take us. They are our leaders."
Those four seniors, along with a host of returning juniors, helped Navy place sixth as a team at last year's EARC Championships. The Midshipmen also posted their best team finish, 10th, at the IRA Regatta since 2006.
Navy's varsity boat, which includes returning juniors Ted Baumgardner and Zach Ryan, had its fourth consecutive top-10 finish at the Eastern Sprints last season.
While the first varsity crew returns plenty of experience and talent heading into 2012, the Mids' other varsity boats also carry a lot of potential.
"I think we have some tough guys in our second varsity boat," said Clothier. "Overall, I think we have more athletes and it's a deeper team. Both our second and third varsity crews are faster than last year and our fourth varsity has had some great training leading into the season."
Clothier also expects good things from the freshman boats again this season. The first freshman boat placed seventh overall at last year's IRA Regatta and took fourth in the grand final at the Eastern Sprints.
"The freshmen are very athletic and they are going to have a good boat again," said Clothier.
After a successful fall schedule, including a third-place finish by the varsity four at the Head of the Charles, the Mids turned their attention to offseason training. With the help of the amenities at the recently renovated Hubbard Hall and solid spring training trip, the Midshipmen have impressed Clothier so far.
"I think we had one of our best spring trips," said Clothier. "We're well ahead of where we were at this point last year because we were able to get a lot done in the fall."
This season will mark Clothier's final year at the helm of the Navy rowing program. Clothier announced in December that he is stepping down after 38 seasons as head coach and associate head coach Rob Friedrich will take the reigns this summer.
With Clothier entering his final season as head coach, it's fitting the Mids will begin the year at an event in which Clothier is very familiar. As coach at Washington, Clothier took the Huskies to the first San Diego Crew Classic and returns this year for the first time in 39 years.
"I vividly remember the event and so it's pretty cool to go back in my last year of coaching," said Clothier. "We'll see a lot of the best teams in the nation in San Diego, including Harvard and Cal. It will be a real challenge for us."
After taking part in the George Washington Invitational on April 6-7, the Mids will travel to Syracuse, N.Y., to meet the Orange and Cornell on April 14. Navy will host Harvard and Penn in its only home regatta of the spring on April 21, before traveling to Princeton, N.J., to meet Columbia the next weekend.
The 2012 EARC Sprints are scheduled for May 13 in Worcester, Mass., and the IRA National Championships will run May 31 - June 2 in Camden, N.J.