Men’s rowing chases history



Austin Neri

The pursuit for the perfect stroke begins at 5AM every morning on the Upper Schuylkill River. The Villanova Men’s Rowing team finds themselves encapsulated in the eerie twilight as their blades enter the water in perfect unison. However, throughout the winter months the team endures a grueling training regimen in the Pavilion on the ergometer, or rowing machine, accompanied by year-round lifting sessions in the Powerhouse with strength coach Tia Anderson. This tests not only their physical limits but their mental limits.  For the will to win means nothing without the will to prepare. Not a day goes by without a reminder of the count down until the stage is set for the epitome of a rower’s dream, The Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta. The Dad Vail is the largest intercollegiate rowing event in the United States. The regatta has been held annually on the Schuylkill River since 1953.

 Rowing is a sport defined by technique not brute power. You must train eight minds and bodies to mend into one cohesive unit under the direction of the coxswain, the maestro of control.  The history of rowing as a sport retains one of the oldest traditions in the world. The first American race took place on the Schuylkill River in 1762 between 6-oarded barges.

Following a spring break training trip in Winter Park, Florida where the Villanova Men defeated Rollins College in the Metro Cup by a healthy margin of 12.5 seconds, Villanova found themselves lined up against Philadelphia powerhouse Drexel University. With the current running like the Colorado River rapids, Villanova jumped out to a commanding lead that they held until 200 meters remained. The Wildcat’s lost by a mere 1.5 seconds. Drexel’s Varsity 8 covered the 2000m course in 5:39.5, Villanova’s in 5:41.0, Drexel’s Second Eight clocked 5:43.1 and LaSalle finished with 5:57.2. First year head coach Sean McKenna was “Disappointed that we were unable to capitalize on a well-executed race, but we’re all motivated by our progress and eager to change the outcome at the next opportunity.”

Invigorated by this valiant display of courage, Villanova charged into the Murphy Cup on the Cooper River in New Jersey where they were met with disappointing results. This served as a turning point in the season where the boat was posed with the feat of not allowing one race to define their future regattas. Villanova responded with a 3rd place finish in the Petite Finals of the Knecht Cup (Mercer Lake, NJ) just 1.95 seconds behind Rutgers University and .85 behind George Mason University. Most recently, Villanova placed 4th in the Grand Finals of the Kerr Cup (Schuylkill River, PA) blowing local Philly rival Saint Joseph’s University away by 13 seconds. This weekend the Villanova men will race in the Bergen Cup on the Schuylkill River against Drexel, Temple, Saint Joseph’s, and LaSalle to determine the Philadelphia city rankings. Overall, Villanova is ranked 37th in the country according to row2k cMax standings up from 50th at the end of last year (1. Cal, 2. Washington, 3. Yale, 4. Princeton, 5. Harvard).

Sean McKenna sits at the helm of the Villanova Men’s Rowing team. Sean transitioned from assistant coach to head coach for the 2014-2015 season after working primarily with the lightweight and freshman programs. After four years of new head coaches, Sean is seeking to end the turnover and build the Villanova University Men’s Rowing organization from the foundation up. He made the transition to coaching after representing the United States at the 2012 Senior World Championships in the Lightweight 8.

Meanwhile, Devon Teichman is the Freshman/Novice coach (despite the few recruits that come in each year, the rowing team has a large foundation of walk-ons). After 4 successful high school years, he was selected for the Men’s Junior National Team in 2008, where he coxed the Junior 4 to an 8th place finish in Linz-Ottensheim, Austria.  For college, Devon attended Saint Joseph’s University, where he coxed the Varsity Lightweight 8 and the Varsity 8 to numerous successful races.

Following last year’s 2nd place finish in the Petite Finals of the Dad Vail, Villanova is chasing history once again to cap off a strong spring season. The goal: Dad Vail Grand Finals on May 9th. 15 days.

Villanova Men’s Varsity 8 Roster:

COXSWAIN Brandon Dorenkott (SO): Three-year varsity coxswain at Hampton High School. Finished 6th in the Midwest in the Varsity 4 his junior year.

STROKE Spencer Chipman (SR): Picked up rowing after swimming for 12 years. Placed 3rd in the U.S. U23 World Championship Trials in the pair (with teammate Jack Holden).

7 SEAT Jack Holden (SO): Competed at Youth Nationals as a senior in high school and Elite Nationals after freshman year at Villanova.

6 SEAT Chris Helmon (JR): Pursued rowing after rafting through the Grand Canyon

5 SEAT Austin Neri (SO): Rowed for Saint Augustine Preparatory School in the Varsity 8, two time state champion, competed at Youth Nationals, finished 17th in the nation in the Varsity 8 his senior year.

4 SEAT Michael McCarthy (SO): Picked up rowing halfway through freshman year on a whim and fell in love with the sport.

3 SEAT Christian Vergilio (JR): 3 year varsity soccer letter winner.

2 SEAT Andrew Prephan (SO): Rowed for St. John’s Jesuit High School as team captain and finished 9th in the nation in the Lightweight 8 his senior year.

BOW Joey Weaver (SO): Rowed for Bromfield-Acton/Boxborough in high school and finished 9th in the Varsity 4 at Junior Nationals