By Sean McCrea
Men’s Varsity Rower
Larger than life container ships less than 100 yards to my left. The Vincent Thomas Bridge staring at me in the distance ahead. On the shore to my right is the decommissioned World War II Battleship the USS Iowa. An overwhelming sense of gratitude takes over my consciousness as I sit in awe, awaiting the start of the final race of the fall season. Regatta officials are yelling out commands to surrounding boats trying to get them lined up for the start of the race. 12 boats in total, all bunched up in the channel previously described. Santa Barbara, USC, San Diego State, and Long Beach all sending multiple 4+’s out to race on a gloomy Sunday morning. Rain begins to fall just before the race starts, it doesn’t matter… we’re focused, we’re strong, we’re ready.
Head of the Harbor about is about as straight of a course as it gets for head racing, and the distance is around 4800 meters. 1500 meters into the race Santa Barbara is closing in on us like they were shot out of a cannon. Their bow ball is on our stern deck and I can hear their coxswain calling power fives and demanding her rowers to bring up the power to pass us. Had I moved my eyes to left a millimeter I would have been able to tell you the color of her eyes, but by this time in the race I was seeing tunnel vision. I knew that I could not afford to take one stroke off or I run the risk of letting down my teammates behind me who are all working just as hard, if not harder than I to not let this boat physically pass us. We counter every attempt to pass by Santa Barbara by powering up with them, their coxswain is getting frustrated. This is a battle of will, determination, and effort, and it goes on for roughly 12 minutes. With 1000 meters to go we close in on USC and San Diego State, who were both sent off before us. I can now hear USC’s coxswain, Santa Barbara’s coxswain, our coxswain, Nikki Jenkins, and our teammates and friends screaming “GOOO BEEAACCCHH!!!” from the boat launching dock on the shore to the right. The sound of our 4 oar locks popping together in stereo keeps my breathing rhythm synchronized with each stroke. We bring up the rate and the power and the tunnel I’m looking through is getting smaller and smaller. Pulling away from Santa Barbara and gaining ground on USC with each stroke and my whole body is on fire. We now have overlap with our bow ball on the stern deck of USC. Nate, Dylan, Ibrahim, Nikki, and myself are giving it everything we’ve got, this is the last competitive collegiate race Nate and Dylan will ever have and we are not about to give up anything! Nikki calls another power 10 and we fly across the finish line on the last strokes, simultaneously running completely out of energy. We held our ground.
That was the open 4+’s race, LBS men’s 4A+ finished 5th of 12 with a time of 18:06. The 4B+ finished 9th of 12 with an 18:51. The novice 4A was 12 of 12 with a 22:41, but to their credit, they just finished the novice 8+ event, rowed to the dock, got into the 4+, rowed to the start, and raced a field of fresh varsity crews. They would have done much better had the circumstances been different. The novice 4B+ did not make it to the start in time and were disqualified. In the varsity 8+’s event the 8A+ got 7th of 10 with a 17:20 and the 8B+ finished 9th of 10 with an 18:00 flat. The novice 8A+ was missing one of their fastest oarsmen, Chris Innes, but they picked up the slack and finished strong, getting 4th of 17 with a 17:49. Novice 8B+ finished 15 of 17 with a 20:45.
We may not have come home with any medals this year at Head of the Harbor, but Long Beach State Rowing came home holding its head high. We left everything out on the water that day, as we always do on race day, and look forward to meeting these crews again in the spring for 2k season.