One national championship.
This was the 2018-2019 season of Seattle University Men’s Crew in its most basic form, stripped of the dedication, anxiety, and relief of winning the program’s first Varsity Four National Championship. For all members of the title-winning crew, from stroke seat Derek Heath to coxswain Lucy Brezynski, the victory at Lake Lanier Olympic Park in Gainesville Georgia on May 26 seemed out of reach just one month prior.
Competing at the Western Regional Championship in April, Seattle placed third in the coxed four event, behind crews from the University of Santa Clara and UC Santa Barbara. While only three seconds separated gold from bronze, such a defeat forecasted an ominous result at nationals, which features a deeper and more competitive field. The monumental task demanded discipline and extra practices. However, the four rowers, coxswain, and coach were united behind each other and a common goal to become champions.
All members of the boat had fought or chosen to compete at nationals. Bobby Murray and Derek Heath, the winners of the Men’s Pair at the Western Championships, selected to compete in the varsity four. Liam Connor had earned his spot in the varsity boat as a freshman, balancing school and rowing all while relocating to a new state and environment. Ben Clarke had seat-raced into the lineup just before the regional championship, and weighing in at 155 pounds, he was one of the few lightweights competing in an open weight event. Finally, Lucy Brezynski had lost her spot in the boat earlier in the season, but with Nationals in mind, continued improving before seizing an opportunity to earn her way back into the lineup just two weeks prior.
As Seattle U lineup against George Mason, Michigan, Clemson, Washington State, and others in the Grand Final, the outcome remained a tossup. George Mason, the defending champions who also posted the fastest time in heats on Friday, posed the largest threat. Win or lose, however, it would be the Redhawk’s race. Under the guidance of head coach Nichole Martin, the five students in the boat had thrown themselves at the challenge knowing there might only be a slim chance of success against East Coast crews they had never faced this season.
Picking up the race halfway through, the broadcast crew called Seattle U up in front and “Obliterating” their competition.
Not only had the majority of Seattle University’s team made the long trip to Georgia, but half of the team was in the winning boat. One of the smallest crews in the country, with nothing more than stubbornness on their side, experienced crushing defeat only to commit harder and win it all.
Well worth the trip indeed.