Georgia tech crew
History of GT Crew
Georgia Tech Crew was founded in 1985 and has been growing ever since. We invite you to read about how it all began and the events along the way that got us to where we are now. All of the historical information was gathered and compiled by Slim Jim Price in the year 2001. Hopefully, we'll be adding to this history soon...
Present day Georgia Tech Rowing was officially started in spring 1986 with the charter of the Rowing Club. The founder and first team president, Michael May, was a track and Cross-Country Runner, who had no eligibility left under NCAA rules. After being introduced to rowing while co-oping in Huntsville, AL, he and his roommate Mark Turner started to row out of the Atlanta Rowing Club. At ARC, they met the people who would ensure GT Crew’s success: Jeff and Debbie McKenna. Debbie and Jeff would coach, employ, row with, and lead the very few rowers whom comprised the small team. The team first got money from the Student Foundation for used boats and used oars – thus giving Tech Crew its first equipment.
The first season, fall ’86 / spring ’87 surprised the rowing world with a novice men’s four that medalled in almost all regattas entered and finished 6th at the national championship regatta, Dad Vails.
Fall 1987 the team was able to purchase two new boats through a bill passed through the Student Government Association.
The next year, spring 1988, Tech Crew was given a gift: John Hunter. Mr. Hunter was a devout Tech supporter; in fact he was the first non-alum to serve on the advisory board. He fell in love with the team and he agreed to sponsor GT Crew on St. Andrews church land and fund a boathouse. He worked with the Reverend E. Peter Ludden from the church to start the rowing center and gather support from the congregation to donate the land. One of the reasons why Tech Crew was able to get support from the church was they agreed to help start a high school rowing program: the Saint Andrew’s Rowing Club (SARC), named after the church.
Summer 1988, Mr. Hunter donated materials and one contractor to build the dock and boathouse –he didn’t donate the dock and the boathouse outright. The team worked together to build everything under the guidance of the contractor.
Fall 1988, SARC started with great success and high participation sharing equipment with GT Crew. In spring 1990 the high school and college programs were officially separated.
The Crew team steadily grew the next couple years and in the 1992/93 season, the men’s team saw a dramatic change: their lightweight eight stepped up as a force to compete among the top teams in the nation. They were the first to medal at Dad Vails (3rd), the national championships for smaller teams. The most competitive teams such as those from the Ivy League schools compete in other regattas such as the IRA regatta. They were also the first to medal at Champion (2nd), another more prestigious regatta where they competed among some Ivy League Schools. From their two top finishes in highly regarded regattas – it is easy to say that they finished among the top ten lightweight eights in the nation, a feat never accomplished before in Tech Crew History.
The team’s next big accomplishment occurred in spring 1996 with an overall third place finish at the Dad Vail regatta. Both the varsity and novice men’s lightweight eights placed second. In addition, the varsity women’s lightweight four and novice women’s open four placed third, the best season for both the women’s team and for the team overall.
Traveling to the Dad Vails, the team had a trailer accident where most of our boats were destroyed. Some members of the team that were in the van towing the trailer were taken to a local hospital as a safety precaution. Despite the University’s command of canceling the whole trip and sending everyone back home, the team instead traveled to Vails, placing third. The team was placed under suspension and no boats were allowed to be rowed fall 1996.
The next step in GT Crew was spring 1997, again in the varsity men’s lightweight eight and women’s lightweight four. The men finished first at the Southern Regionals (SIRAs) and second (by 0.03 seconds!!!) at Champion Regatta, a nationally competitive regatta. The men decided to compete at the most competitive collegiate race: the IRAs, where all Ivy League Schools compete. The boat beat all other club programs in the nation that year, placing 9th overall in the nation.
The lightweight women’s four placed second at SIRAs and second at Vails – the best finish ever by our women’s team.
The most recent step in GT Crew was Spring 1999, this time by the varsity women. They had their most successful season with two medalling boats at Dad Vails. The open women’s four got second place and the open women’s pair got third (with a faulty rudder).
The spring of 2000 saw GT Crew’s first Dad Vail gold medal. Rather unexpectedly it was the novice men’s lightweight eight that came through with the big win. Unfortunately, only one lightweight from this boat came back as a varsity rower.
Due to the dearth of lightweights in the 2000/2001 season, tech crew fattened up a few mid-weights and fielded its first truly heavy eight. This eight turned heads at SIRA, where, as eight seed, they managed to beat out several varsity programs for third place. The following month, the eight traveled to Philadelphia to again achieve above expectations, only this time at the Dad Vail regatta. They placed fourth out of 27 crews, more than half of which were true varsity programs. The eight broke down into a four in order to compete at IRAs. They placed fourth in the nation, which was a tremendous accomplishment considering they were the only club crew there. The light four also did well in 2001. With two freshmen in the boat they managed gold at SIRA and silver at Dad Vail’s, once again missing the elusive varsity gold.
MESSAGE FROM THE EDITOR
I set out a task for myself this spring to document the history of the crew team. Why? Did I not have anything else to do? I did, but it just wasn't as exciting as rowing. What would you do-create a methanol and MTBE chemical plant for your senior design project. or think about crew? I think each rower has been presented with this same question of how to allocate your time, and I think I did what any sensible rower would have done. I chose the latter option only to discover that I had to do the former to graduate.
I hoped that I could get all the information correct and in full detail, so I left it up to other people to describe. I contacted the alumni that I knew, and invited everyone to write something. I additionally got into contact with some of our 'lost' founders (who can't and won't believe it's been 15 years!).
I unfortunately didn't have the full alumni updated list at the time I was making all these requests (I just got it 2 days ago from the Alumni Association) and feel bad that I couldn't contact everyone. I also had to worry about passing Chemical Engineering-if I didn't finish my senior design project on time, I wouldn't graduate.
So to make it up, I will create a second edition of GT Crew history this Fall (when I have more time to contact more of our 'old' alumni). I hope people get into the writing mood after seeing all of these great stories without stories we have no more past.
It's been exciting going through the old records from the 'crewhouse', the damp musty basement of the 'watersports-house' which we keep our few ergs and weights in. I've relived my childhood dreams of being an archaeologist digging through old files
So for the crew team, I give this as my gift. I'm too poor to donate monetary items; plus my car was just stolen so I can't help drive to practices! I hope that our alumni will both remember and realize how great Georgia Tech Crew is. We are limited by many factors; however we are never limited by the desire and passion to row. For all of us, the passion comes from a different place, but it is a universal truth among us.
Please enjoy all the stories that your fellow alumni have compiled and I hope that it sparks that fire back in you.