1978 Men’s Racing Season
Only 12 oarsmen, excluding Rich, rowed for the entire 1977-78 season. The 12 were divided into a varsity lightweight 4 (that went undefeated even though they were all novices), and a varsity heavyweight 8.
At the Western Sprints, the 8 competed against varsity crews, though Rich was the only experienced oarsman in the boat. While Rich was in the coach’s launch for every practice row, on race day he stroked the heavyweight 8.
Two-seat Steve Kirtland, who showed up every day for nine months of rowing practices and land workouts, never got to race in the 8. He did race in a heavyweight 4 a handful of times. “Steve never complained,” Rich said. “Without Steve, it never would have worked for me to coach and race. His contribution to the team was truly critical, but he’s never received the credit he deserves. It’s likely no one after 1978 even knows Steve was on the first year’s team, much less appreciate how important his role was and how unselfishly he fulfilled his role. He was the unsung hero of 1978.”
The Men’s Crew Boat Lineups
The boating varied slightly during the race season but during almost all races the men’s 8+ lineup was:
Cox Barbie Engleman, Jennifer Tim
Stroke Rich Sundquist
7 Eric Vanderbilt
6 John Boesel
5 Phil Kearney
4 Chuck Nichols
3 Kevin Heaney
2 Pete MacRostie, Steve Kirtland
Bow Jeff DeNatale, Tom Halley
Cox Jennifer Tim, Barbie Engleman
Stroke Tom Halley
3 Chip Brown
2 Bob Lockwood
Bow Jay Borer
Intensity of Training
The team would meet at 5 a.m. in the Primero dorm parking lot and carpool out to the port each morning. There were typically two workouts per day, one on the water and one on land or at the gym.
The team trained hard. Oarsmen who rowed that year recall Rich saying, “I know people on the national team and these are the workouts they are doing.” The mantra was, “We will not get walked on and we will not be out-conditioned,” Rich said. On-the-water the training was brutal with lots of seat racing. There was a row-a-thon fundraiser where people pledged money for the hours each rower was on the water in one day. Some rowers recount rowing 10 hours that day. Some members of the team could do 27 pull ups and one rower could deadlift 450 pounds. If the workout on the water did not meet expectations, there would be 100 squat jumps after.
1978 Racing Season
The race experience to date had been:
- Stanford agreed to pre-season scrimmaging at Stanford where the Aggies were not competitive and “were horribly out-classed.”
- Loss to Berkeley High School
- Win over San Francisco Police Academy
- Win over Campolindo High School
- Win over Lake Merritt Rowing Club
- Win over California Maritime Academy
- Win over St. Mary’s at the Port
Phil Kearney & Phil Kearney Sr. prior to Berkeley HS race
Article from California Aggie 4/21/1978
Varsity 8 at Port of Sacramento preparing to race St. Mary’s
The team went to Western Sprints at Lexington Reservoir in Los Gatos. On the way, the team’s car broke down, and the rowers had to spend the night sleeping in their car at Cordelia Junction. When they arrived at Lexington Reservoir this was the first regatta they had been to and they were all amazed at the number of boats and teams. Most of the training the team had done had been isolated. Hard training on the water and running stairs and hills.
New rowing programs, defined as their first or second year of existence, competed as JV at the Western Sprints. The men competed as a JV 8+ at Western Sprints, held at Lexington Reservoir. After the initial heat UCD was in the repechage to qualify for the final.
“It was a very competitive race where the top two advance,” Rich said. “Orange Coast was out front but the battle for the final spot was tight between Stanford and UC Davis. The margin at the finish was the largest of the race. We rowed between bows even, and four or five seats down the entire race. We were four seats down at 1,500 meters, but we won the race by starting our sprint 400 meters out. Stanford wasn’t ready and when we passed them with 250 meters to go they broke. None of us had ever sprinted so far. The announcer called the last 250 meters stroke for stroke, making comments like ‘UC Davis — in the first year of its program — is battling for a spot in the final.’”
Photo of the first UC Davis Crew Men’s 8 at the repechage finish line, beating Stanford to advance to the JV8+ final.
And sure enough the Aggies pulled it off, edging out Stanford and providing an excellent finish to an incredible journey. Over the course of one year, what started as an idea had blossomed into a competitive program.
Next Up UCD Crew Origins Part 4 1978 Women’s Team Racing Season