By James Duffy, sports editor
The Northeastern University (NU) men’s rowing team finished its year in spectacular fashion, winning the varsity eight petite final on the final day of the season at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) finals. The victory propelled the team to seventh overall in national rankings.
“We came into this championship with the goal of getting faster,” head coach John Pojednic said in an interview with GoNU. “For this crew to come out and finish seventh nationally is nothing short of an absolutely outstanding result and achievement.”
The first varsity boat beat out Stanford University’s crew by just over one second after coming from behind during the race, finishing at 5:51.02 to Stanford’s 5:52.13. The second varsity boat also competed in the petite final, coming in fourth place with a time just a fraction over six minutes.
Both boats raced four times during the three days of competition at the IRA’s, while other crews they were competing against had only raced three times, as they had qualified for the semifinal in their first heat. The Huskies were still able to finish strong despite the rigorous weekend.
“It says a lot about the toughness and the resiliency of the guys,” Pojednic said. “It puts us in a position where we’re never gonna say that we’re out of gas.”
The team raced twice on Friday, June 3, and their results in the repechage races allowed them to stay in the regatta for Saturday’s semifinal, where the first and second varsity boats qualified for the final.
“I can’t say enough about the way the guys continue to step up in the face of different forms of adversity,” Pojednic said after Friday’s races.
The end of the IRAs also marked the end of the careers of five seniors: Matej Herega, Olivier McNicoll, Kevin Meador, John Rectenwald and Eric Winkert. Winkert was the lone senior on the first varsity boat, while the other four filled the second.
“The guys that are seniors now, outgoing, have been a part of a tremendous transformation,” Pojednic said. “They’ve done a great job of evolving year to year […] I can’t say enough about what these seniors have done just in the past two weeks.”
The future looks bright for the Huskies, who are the seventh-ranked team in the nation with a young roster. Thirteen of the 18 rowers who competed at nationals will be back next season, including all but one from the first varsity boat that claimed first place.
Pojednic said he hopes he has not seen the last of his graduating class, however.
“I want them here next year, I want them on the shore and in the tent rooting for the guys,” he said. “I want them to come here next year and say, ‘The program is better in 2017 because of what we did in 2016, 2015 and 2014.’”
Photo courtesy Jim Pierce, Northeastern Athletics