It has been a heavy medal year for the men.
Our club is blazing. We have many crews, men and women, rowing sweep boats and sculls, racing their heads off.
Let’s take our racing men, for instance. Back in April, LARC’s Matt Schaeffer—who, by the way, learned to scull at UCLA, then got thrown in a sweep boat two years ago at LARC—rowed with doubles partner Nick Babikian in the Olympic Trials in Sarasota, Florida. The duo took third place in the finals, but to them it was a total win. “Our biggest goal was to make the finals,” Schaeffer says, “so gold for us was simply winning the repechage and beating CRI (Community Rowing) which put us in the finals. Being in the finals was just so cool, surrounded by people who would be going on to the Olympics.” The top finishers of each event went on to Rio; Schaeffer set his sights on the Head of the Charles (HOCR), but didn’t get a bid this year. Babikian scored a gig at Goldman Sachs that took him to Houston. “He moved, we sold our double, and he’s gone!” Schaeffer says. “He is a great training partner.” The pair were putting in double-, sometimes triple-day workouts, on the water together in both singles and the double. “We really pushed each other.” Next up for Matt, fall head races and the Long Beach Christmas Regatta.
Dave Frick is a retired database programmer for [Move Inc., the company that develops and manages the Realtor.com website for ] the National Association of Realtors, where he managed all the listings; as a former member of the Army Reserves, he retired at 60. Now 62, he’s got three children and five grandchildren. And is enjoying every minute of his time.
He races all year long, this year starting with the Christmas Regatta [and indoor Beach Sprints in Long Beach, nope, I was sick this year and missed it] then the San Diego Crew Classic where he, Mark May and Steve Krum all raced with [UC the University of San Diego] Alumni boat—and won [the Founder’s Cup] for the second time. “It was the best race of my life,“ Frick says. “We were in the lead, then Marin took it over, and we kept our cool. Our cox called for us to bring it up and we took back the lead, but by just that much! It’s the race I replay in my mind many times before I go to sleep.”
And Frick has been racing in doubles and singles events with Mike McKay: “We raced in the Summer Solstice in Long Beach and we each got gold in our single events (different age categories), and third in our doubles race. Then we did the Gold Rush (Lake Natoma, Sacramento State Aquatic Center) in doubles and singles, where we placed second in our double and Mike [and I each got gold in our respective singles races got gold in the single].” The pair went to Mike’s hometown of Wyandotte, Michigan (south of Detroit) for a big race there [where they both won gold again in their single races], then on to the Masters’ Nationals in Worchester, Massachusetts in July, where they got bronze in the straight four (rowed with Wyandotte guys) and Frick got a bronze in his single, and McKay a silver in his.
Next for Frick is the Head of the Charles, where he will race [with Mark May] in the [UCSD USD] Alumni 8+ on Saturday and a quad in the Director’s Challenge on Sunday. “I just want to do this for as long as I can,” he says. “Before the back or something else goes. I love that I was doing this at age 22, and still am. I love the single, especially, because you can do your own thing, and I enjoy the solitude, watching the sun come up all on my own. I feel very lucky.”
You could say the same about strength trainer Mike McKay, who also trains veterans in the volunteer “Heroes Movement” he created. He and Dave Frick did many doubles and singles events together, but a memorable moment of this year might have been the Gold Rush Regatta, where McKay raced against women’s Olympic Silver medalist Gevvie Stone. He was of course routing for her during the turbulent singles quarterfinals in Rio: “I was very nervous.” [Peg: please check w/Mike on this. I don’t think it was Stone, I think it was the Brazilian Olympic sculler]
Mike got lots of medals this year, although he says he was better prepared last year: “Rowing is all about putting in your time. But it’s all good.” He got silver at Summer Solstice, Southwest Regionals and Masters Nationals in his single, but the highlight for this year, he says: “Winning the quad at Masters’ Nationals (in July). Everything just clicked in that race. It was a great race.”
McKay has been rowing since 1991; he learned at Wyandotte Boat Club and at Mount Carmel in 7th grade. Usually when training for a race he puts in 10 workouts a week (“That’s when you win races!”); this year he had an overuse back injury, so cut back to three to four times a week. When asked what he loves about rowing, McKay is frank: “I don’t really like practicing, except as a means to an end. I like to race,” he says. “I like getting to the line, blasting off and I love the dog fight at the end. The start and the finish lines. The bodies. I love sprints the best.”
Will he be racing the head of the Charles? “I’d rather sit in traffic than do a head race.”
Call to Action: I know there are lots of fast women and men in our club, including Ryan Schroeder who rowed with University of Washington varsity men and got a gold in World Championships! As you send me your results, I’ll write them up! Email me at: email@example.com .