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Men’s rowing poised for fast times, big results

The Northeastern men’s rowing team hits the water Saturday at the University of Pennsylvania for its first competition of the 2016 season.

It will be the squad’s only dual meet outside of Boston, before the team travels to Worcester in May for the Eastern Association of Rowing Colleges Eastern Sprints.

Last year, Northeastern secured regular-season victories against Brown University and the University of Wisconsin. In championship competition, the varsity eight surged to a second-place finish at the Eastern Sprints and advanced to the Grand Final of the IRA National Championship.

Here, head coach John Pojednic, in his 16th season as Northeastern’s head coach, offers insight into the squad’s preparation for this season and what he is expecting from the young group of rowers.

What about this season most excites you? And as a coach, what are your expectations?

We have a young team this year—we are heading into the season with a varsity eight comprised entirely of underclassmen and a core of freshmen in our second varsity eight. The guys have worked very hard all year to lay a solid foundation in terms of fitness, the way they want to move the boat, and their intentions for racing 2,000 meters. There is a clear opportunity to gain a lot of speed through the course of the racing season and to compete in a manner that we can be very proud of. I’m excited to see how the team embraces that opportunity.

Are you approaching this season any differently than past seasons?

We have done a few things differently this year than we have in the past. We made some fundamental changes to our training program and have employed some technology that we haven’t used before. I think both have been positive, however nothing will replace the fact that the team needs to take a very determined approach to our day-to-day training and our regular season racing if we are going to achieve the type of peak performances in May and June that we have grown to expect in our program.

When it comes to training and preparation, when does the preseason officially become the regular season for your squad?

Since January our crews have been competing against each other in practice. The regular season begins April 3 in Philadelphia against Pennsylvania. That will be our first opportunity to race 2,000 meters against another team. As the season begins, we make the shift from doing a tremendous amount of volume at low, medium, and high intensities to racing flat out at a red line for about 5 minutes and 30 seconds. The intensity of that shift is driven by the oarsmen, and that is what I am looking forward to seeing.

The season’s schedule is basically identical to last year’s. What is the motivation for keeping the schedule the same?

Our league, the Eastern Association of Rowing Colleges, is comprised of 18 of the strongest men’s rowing programs in the country. Many of the dual races that comprise the regular season have existed on the same schedule for anywhere from 20 years to 100 years.

The distribution of the racing among the teams in the league and the natural overlap that occurs through the season is very important to the seedings for the Eastern Sprints, our conference championship. All of our dual races have a cherished cup or trophy that the winner gets to keep for the next year.

One of the neat traditions in our sport is that the schedule, year to year, generally stays the same.

The cup the Huskies will be competing for this weekend against Penn is the Burk Cup, named in honor of Joseph Burk, an oarsman at Penn in the 1930s and a coach of the Quakers in the 1950s and ‘60s. The squads have competed for the Burk Cup since 1970.

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