Being a member of St. Lawrence's rowing team is a formidable physical and mental challenge, but the Saints' collective willpower on and off the water inspires a spirit of camaraderie like no other.
“It’s a pain contest.”
In his 17th season as the head coach of the men’s rowing team, George Repicky speaks about his sport with both bluntness and pride. He pulls no punches and is well aware of the grueling tasks which lie ahead for him and his squad this spring. He welcomes the challenge.
To prepare for the difficult season, Repicky and his team are headed to Tampa, Florida, for spring break. Repicky will be driving the entirety of the 20-and-a-half hour trip, towing the team’s boats in a trailer behind him.
The Saints, however, will not be going to Florida to partake in the stereotypical activities which are associated with a college spring break. There is work to be done.
“It’s all on the water," said Repicky. "We plan to row twice a day, every day. We’ll usually roll out of the hotel between 6:45 and 7 a.m. We’ll go out on the Tampa Bay from about 7 to 10. Then the athletes will go to lunch, and usually go back to their rooms and take a nap. Then we’ll go back out for three hours in the afternoon depending on the weather and our schedule.
"It’s not a fun spring break,” explained Repicky. “It’s fun in that you’re fit, you’re getting in the boats, it’s sunny out, and it’s a cool experience to go do this.”
Though Repicky may not describe the trip as being particularly “fun,” his athletes are ready for the adventure and look forward to putting in the necessary work.
“Tampa is really going to help us lock in,” said coxswain David Osborne ’22.
David is one of only four team members who were on the roster the last time the St. Lawrence rowing program made this trip three years ago. Alongside him were Nicholas Nigro ’22, James Rauch ’22, and Matthew Shadick ’22. Angus McAndrew ’22, who joined the program last spring, is the team’s only other senior. He, too, is feeling good about heading down south for the week.
“None of us have been in the boat since our last training session which would have been way back in early November. Given the circumstances, we’ve done well [in winter training] and the morale is pretty high going into this spring trip.”
Much like their head coach, Angus and David are matter-of-fact about the challenges ahead and their leadership duties as seniors.
“Every day that you show up to practice you’re showing up to endure something,” said Angus. “You’re going to suffer a little bit every day if you do it right. That in and of itself brings us together.”
David shared similar thoughts.
“I think going through the grind together forces us to get in the right mindset," he said. "This is work, but we’re doing it together.”
“Our long-term goal is to medal at Liberty Leagues,” said Angus. “I don’t think that’s been done in over a decade at St. Lawrence.”
David is well aware of the program’s history as well and is excited about hunting down a Liberty League medal.
“That’s been the goal for the program since we last did it in 2009. I think Tampa is going to allow us to take that first step in the right direction.”
This is an impressive goal, and the confidence with which the team discusses it is equally as impressive. What’s most impressive, however, is another long-term goal which the seniors hope to achieve.
“We want to leave the program better than we found it so that the next generation can go forth and build off of what we’ve done,” said David. “Setting the standard high before we leave is really important to us.”
“It’s about the culture that we create on the team as upperclassmen and how we conduct ourselves. We’re a good program and we really care about our integrity,” said Angus. “Whether it’s in training or on the water we want to show that.”
This goal reflects a sense of pride that is common among athletes and staff in the rowing program.
“The attrition rate is pretty high," said McAndrew. "A lot of people drop out. As seniors that have reached this point, our feeling is that we need to really solidify to the underclassmen that it’s worth it. What you get out of this is very much worth the suffering and the time you put in.”
Their coach wholeheartedly agrees.
“Some of the finest people who call themselves Laurentians do this because of the unique challenges it presents," said Repicky. "We work hard and we’re committed to each other. The training is hard and we’re better people for having done this here.”