The Northeastern University men’s rowing team is a prime example. Last season, the varsity eight compiled a 6-1 regular-season record and climbed to No. 3 in the national polls. The crew finished fourth in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championships and placed second in the unusually named Henley Royal Regatta’s Ladies’ Challenge Plate final, the second-most-prestigious event for men’s eights.
By all accounts, the red and black made quite a splash in 2013, their best season in some 20 years.
But there were growing pains: The Huskies suffered a string of defeats to the Harvard Crimson, the perennial powerhouse, and looked out of sync for short stretches, performing less like an eight-man collective and more like a group of hardworking individual oarsmen.
Nevertheless, the Huskies persevered, exceeding the expectations of head coach John Pojednic, who says, “They proved to be faster than the sum of their individual parts.”
This spring’s crew, he vows, will be stronger and faster still, a battle-tested group with the mental and physical acuity to beat the nation’s best.
It’s led by captain Justin Jones, a 6-foot, 189-pounder who occupies the stroke seat and embodies the team’s competitive ethos. When he’s not studying, Jones is training, performing the kind of lifts you see in the Summer Olympics. After practice, he’ll row on the ergometer for 20 miles.
“Justin is a great leader and his enthusiasm for training is remarkable,” says Pojednic. “He’s wiser than his years and is everything a coach could hope for in an athlete and a captain.”
Says Jones, S’15, the ever-modest teammate and USRowing’s Fan’s Choice Collegiate Athlete of the Year: “I try to take a leadership role, but there are a lot of other very talented and mature guys who do the same thing.”
Indeed, the crew’s talent and maturity are two of its most crucial commodities—according to Pojednic, seven of last season’s top eight oarsmen will return, buoyed by yet another year of training, camaraderie, and close finishes.
This year, the Huskies are shooting for a perfect season, beginning in late March with races against George Washington and Pennsylvania, two crews who succumbed to Northeastern’s speed last season by a combined 11.8 seconds. And circle May 3 on your calendar; that’s the date when Northeastern will race Harvard for the annual Smith Cup.
“The biggest strength of this boat is that we have been in high-pressure situations before,” says Jones. “Now we’re in position to go toe-to-toe with the best teams in the country.”