Three members of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) men's crew team have once again qualified to compete on the world stage. After rowing last year in England's prestigious Henley Regatta, upcoming seniors Hank Moore and Ben Johnson, and 2010 graduate Tobin McGee will travel to Brest, Belarus, later this month to participate in the World Rowing Under-23 Championships as members of the U.S. National Crew Team. The competition will feature athletes, all under 23 years of age, from around the world.
The fact that three WPI rowers made the U.S. National Team is a testament to how much the university's program has grown, according to WPI Crew Coach Larry Noble. The year he arrived at WPI, Noble was faced with a team about to transition from club to varsity status. "In 2000, we had four varsity athletes and 16 novice rowers," he said. "We now have more than 40 athletes on the men's team. Competing in last summer's Henley Regatta, our third-place finish at New England Championships, and placing sixth at the Eastern College Athletic Conference National Invitational Rowing Championships this year all underscore the fact that WPI Crew has come a long way."
To qualify for the World Rowing Championships, which will be held July 22-25, the rowers had to compete in the Under-23 World Championship Trials on Mercer Lake in West Windsor, N.J., from June 22-25. Moore, of Jaffrey, N.H., and Johnson, of Northford, Conn., won the pair (two-man row), while McGee, of Rye, N.Y., won in the lightweight quad (four-man row).
This is not the first time WPI crew team members have rowed at such a high level of competition. In 2001 Eric Wilhelm '99 and Matt Beaton '00 rowed the lightweight double at the World Championships in Lucern, Switzerland. While WPI has talented and motivated rowers, Coach Noble said it is hard work and preparation that sets them apart. "I hope that other WPI rowers will follow Hank, Ben, and Tobin in the years to come," he said. "Tobin graduated this year, but Hank and Ben will be back this fall and will bring experience in racing at the elite level. They will also be fitter than they have ever been.
"They are also motivating their teammates to train hard," added Noble, who said he is "extremely proud" of what the student-athletes have accomplished. "They worked hard throughout the year to prepare for the WPI racing season, and they did additional work in the water and the weight room and on the ergo meters so that they would be ready for their national team tryouts. It takes hard work and dedication to get fit enough for elite-level rowing. They all put in an additional one to two hours of training every day as well as normal WPI practices of three hours."
No matter what the outcome is for WPI rowing in Belarus, Coach Noble said he hopes it is only the beginning of the momentum. "I am hopeful that this is the start of a tradition of WPI athletes rowing at the elite level. The top programs we compete against all have athletes who do this."