Staying Connected Without Boats

Hornet crew wins Midwest title

05/15/2008 14:02


Hornet crew wins Midwest title

Lightweight four qualifies for nationals after convincing win

By Brian Cox, Staff Writer

PUBLISHED: May 15, 2008

Saline rowing coach Dave Fiske knew his lightweight four boat was fast. He knew the talented crew of Jeff Hartman, Matt Smolinski, Sean Connors, John Recknagel and coxswain Fraser Christie were driven to win.

Still, at the Midwest Rowing Championship in Cincinnati over the weekend, Fiske worried.

"You just never know," he said. "It's the best competition in the Midwest. There are some very fast boats."

It didn't help that both of the regattas Saline was scheduled to race in leading up to the championship were winded out. While several of the other rowing programs at the championship had a number of races under their belt, the Hornets hadn't raced in a month Fiske worried about that, too.

He needn't have.

The Saline lightweight four won the finals heat convincingly in 5 minutes, 23.07 seconds, bringing home the program's first Midwest championship and the boys' team's first medal ever from the contest. The girls' team has won silver and bronze medals at the championship in the past.

"It's tough to even medal," said Fiske. "This is a huge, huge win for us. It changes our expectations and sets the bar high."

Fiske said his team greeted their win with humility.

"They kept their composure and smarts about them," he said. "I was impressed. They are very mature rowers."

With the win, the lightweight four advances to the American Schoolboy Championships in Oakridge, Tenn., May 24 and 25 in search of a national title. Fiske said their time at the Midwest championship put them "right in the ballpark" to make the final heat in Oakridge.

The lightweight four was the only Saline boat to make the finals, but the Varsity 4 and Junior 4 boats came close. The Varsity 4 was made up of David Smolinski, John Wright, and Jeff Wilcox while the Junior 4 consisted of Keegan Jahnke, Neil Pettit, and Andy Michaluk. Peter Fullen was coxswain and Sterling Hargrove was stroke for both boats.

Fiske said the Junior 4 rowed "like beasts."

"They had to come from way back to make the semis," he said. "They really got it together."

Before the lightweight four travels to Tennessee at the end of this month, they will have a chance this weekend to win Saline's first state title at the state championships in Kensington Park.

Fiske likes their chances.

The closest Michigan boat to them at the Midwest championship? It was a full 20 seconds off.