Rowers Nick Petrillo ’14 and Keegan Dufty ’14 have been friends and crew teammates for four years. Coming off defeats by a margin of less than a boat length to numbers one- and two-ranked Williams and Trinity last weekend, the team is hungry for vengeance this weekend. They’ll also be involved in another big event on campus this weekend, having co-written and co-directed a musical in which Dufty will star. With just weeks remaining in their senior year, I met them in SciLi to talk about New England Championships and much more.
The Argus: You guys have a big weekend coming up, can you talk a little bit about the race this weekend in Worcestor?
Keegan Dufty: Well, it is the New England Champions, so all of the Division III opponents that we’ve faced this year have been ranked, and we’ll compete in a heat in the morning and a final in the afternoon.
Nick Petrillo: [knocks on wood]
KD: Winner gets all.
NP: Yeah, it’s a cool season, because you see almost everyone during the season and then it’s just like a clean slate, a second shot. You know anything can happen, and you’ve got six minutes to prove who you are. It’s exciting. It’s going to be a good heat, we’ve got Williams in our heat, and we just finished four seconds behind them last weekend, which is about a boat length. The last five hundred meters of a race, if your boats are touching, it’s anybody’s game. Also in our heat, we’ve got UNH right behind us on our tails, they’re seeded right below us, and they’re fast. We definitely can’t take them lightly. So we’re gonna race them hard.
A: How are you feeling about the weekend?
KD: Good. Great. It’s a fun, aggressive boat we’re in. We’re training hard. We’re training so hard. You can see that in people’s attitudes towards it. I think across the board, all our boats are so competitive. We’ve got one of the best second boats in New England right now, and that makes our first boat even more aggressive. I think this spring has been incredible, in terms of guys fighting for seats and guys trying to prove themselves as athletes and as first boaters and second boaters. We’ve got a squad of racers. That’s manifested itself in the results we’ve gotten, and these last couple races.
NP: Crew’s a sport about volume, and you make a lot of gains over the winter, and you can’t lose sight of how much work every single person on the team puts in: we’ve got three boats full of fast guys, guys no one is worrying about. That’s crucial.
A: How hard is it to stay invested and committed, because it’s a two season sport plus a whole winter of training?
NP: It can be hard, but we’ve got a great team. Great personnel. The reason you keep showing up is because of the guys and girls on the squad. It happens in the boat, on the ergs, through the winter; that’s what you think about.
KD: It’s a brutal sport, because you honestly don’t win a lot. Sixteen teams show up to a race, and one is going to win. There’s not a lot of satisfaction with second place. And you’re training to win, but what it comes down to is the team. It’s integral. That’s what keeps every boat training.
NP: And the hours you lose in the winter, or the mornings, or the weekends you’ve missed, it’s all in the back of your head, and it really perpetuates a team culture of commitment. It helps us keep ourselves focused.
A: What does it do for you guys as a team and as a boat having been together for four years?
NP: It’s the coolest. When you’re in the boat, there’s a real transcendent feeling of unity and oneness. It’s pretty cool when you hit the second half of the race, and the lactic acid is building up, and you know when it gets tough that the person in front of you and the person behind you are right there with you, pushing through it. One of the coolest things about rowing is that only one person gets to talk, and everyone else is silent. And there’s eight of us rowing and one coxswain who’s yelling and is the brain of the boat, and you’re not talking and you can’t even see where you’re going, and there’s so much trust in that boat.
We’re so excited for this weekend, we’re in the best spot I can remember us being in… Three weeks ago if you look at the margins, we were 10, 11 seconds off Williams. We got it to four last weekend. Guys are aggressive and hungry, and we have the mentality that we’re going to hang with the best of them, and come out with some hardware. Wesleyan hasn’t gotten any hardware in a long time. We want it.
A: How do you feel about the course you’re on? You usually spend a lot of time on the Quinsigamond.
NP: It’s a straight course, we’ve done it a thousand times, and the coxswains just know it… I can’t stress how great the coxswains are…,Even outside the race, as good as they are in the water, outside, they’re just extraordinarily organized and trustworthy. We go in there with the cards in our favor because of them.
KD: We’re in a good spot. It’s a cool feeling to go into a big race and know everyone’s willing to make the moves necessary to do what we have to do to win. There’s Williams, we know they are number one, then there’s Trinity, number two, and then three through six, it’s gonna be a dog fight. There’s half a second separating four teams. Our coach put it nicely: there are some teams that’ll go one percent better in this race, and some that’ll go one percent worse. We just want to be going one percent better. We’re confident. You want to peak at New Englands, and we haven’t peaked yet, we don’t think. We’re getting closer every day, and people are putting the work and time in, and it’s gonna pay off.