Two years ago, twins Peter and John Moses were just your normal high school seniors. They played football, basketball and baseball at Mission Viejo High School, and they dreamed of college.
Their plans didn’t include the Erg-A-Thon.
Wednesday, students walked by the Aztec Center at San Diego State University, necks craning curiously, conversation stopping naturally. The whirring sound of the ergometer attracted those who missed the sight. They stopped, looked and read the letters sketched out in tape on the sidewalk: “SDSU Crew.”
It’s spring, when some college students’ fancy turns to rowing. Especially with the San Diego Crew Classic set for Friday and Saturday at Crown Point Shores on Mission Bay.
“To us, as rowers, the San Diego Crew Classic is as big as the Western Sprints (West Coast championships),” said Peter Moses, 20, who is nine minutes older than John. “Because we go against the East Coast schools. And having it in San Diego, our home field, so to speak . . . if we can pull off a victory, it will look good for San Diego crew.”
That’s why the Aztec men have been drumming up publicity this week, the highlight being the Erg-A-Thon. They were attempting to break the world record for the longest “distance” a team has pulled on an ergometer in a 12-hour period. They were also attempting to raise money--crew is a club sport at SDSU and receives no varsity funding. The first SDSU crew member climbed onto the machine Wednesday at 6 a.m.; the last climbed off at 6.
(The Aztecs went more than 200,000 meters, which is more than the listed Guinness record 179,430).
The spectacle certainly was capturing the attention of students, most of whom wouldn’t know the difference between an ergometer and a tachometer.
For the uninitiated, an ergometer is a rowing device that helps rowers and coaches measure strength, endurance and technique on land. It has an oar handle attached to a chain, which moves a fly wheel against a set level of resistance.
Two years ago, neither of the Moses brothers would have dreamed they would be working with one. Both had aspirations of playing small college football. John was the quarterback in high school, Peter was the receiver. But both are about 6-feet, 160 pounds and realized football scholarships were not likely. And since they were twins entering college at the same time, they also realized that their parents wouldn’t be able to afford to send them to an expensive, small school.
So they decided to go to SDSU and find a sport. That’s about the time Peter Moses talked with Laura Potter, a co-worker at a Mission Viejo sporting goods store and an SDSU student. Potter’s roommate at SDSU was dating the crew club president at the time, and she knew Moses wanted to be involved in sports. She suggested crew.
“I was really excited when I heard about it,” Peter said. “My brother and I aren’t the biggest or fastest people, but we’ve always loved athletics.”
He also injected his brother with a dose of enthusiasm. The two checked into crew their first week on campus last year as freshmen. They went to a recruitment meeting, attended a barge class--an introduction to crew that lasts a week--and then were working out with the team.
“We go into many things together,” Peter said. “And we’ve always dreamed of competing against bigger schools.”
They’ll get that chance this weekend. Among the universities due in town are UCLA, Washington, Harvard, Yale, Stanford and Princeton.
For this opportunity, they’ve been working since September. The basic schedule of SDSU’s men’s crew under Coach Dr. Brent Rushall is to run, lift weights, “pull ergs” (use the ergometer) and work out on the water during the non-racing season (from September through February), then work exclusively on the water during the racing season (March through May or June). The crew now is on the water two hours a day six days a week--4-6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 6-8 a.m. on Saturday.
And that’s just the beginning of the dedication it takes to row at SDSU.
“At SDSU, crew is on the low end of the totem pole,” Rushall said. “Our guys study, more than half of them work, they row, and they have to raise funds. At UC San Diego or the University of San Diego (where crew is a varsity sport), all the kids have to do is study and row.”
Each oarsman at SDSU has to start by raising $150, which goes toward boat maintenance, the coach’s salary and the traveling fund. Each also must pay $90 to the Mission Bay Aquatic Center, the home base of Aztec crew. They buy their own shirts and shorts. They pay $15 to Recreation Sports at SDSU so they can use the weight room. They pay $20 each to the U.S. Rowing Assn.--crews must be members of this organization before they can compete in regattas such as the Crew Classic and Western Sprints.
And finances aren’t always the most frustrating. There’s also the fact that athletes on varsity sports at SDSU get priority scheduling. They have special counselors and get first choice of classes. Crew members have to crash courses like the rest of the students, despite working as hard as the varsity athletes.
“I don’t know how many classes I’ve had to drop because it conflicts with rowing,” said Dan Wright, SDSU crew club president.
All this to train for “six minutes of hell"--Peter Moses’ term--which is about the time a normal race (2,000 meters) takes.
If those six minutes go well, the winning crew gets to experience the very fabric of the sport: Tradition says that the winners literally take the shirt off the losers’ backs. This year, Peter Moses is sitting in the sixth seat of SDSU’s varsity lightweight boat, so each time his crew wins, Moses gets to keep the shirt of his No. 6 opponent. Of course, if his crew loses, Moses loses his shirt.
“It’s like a walking trophy,” Peter Moses said.
Moses has nine shirts, one more than his brother. John Moses fell behind this year because he has been plagued by injuries. He injured his back lifting weights, tried to row and developed tendinitis in his shoulder, then injured his spine and neck in an auto accident. He’s better now and has even rowed a couple of times in the past couple of weeks but is undergoing therapy. He will likely redshirt this year.
The brothers’ involvement has interested their family in crew. “Our parents really enjoy it,” Peter said. “They knew nothing about it, and now they really get excited about it.”
They aren’t the only ones.
“When you’re rowing well with seven other guys, it’s beyond reality,” John Moses said. “It’s an incredible feeling of floating. You’re working your hardest, but you feel like you can go on forever. It’s like your boat has been pulled out of the water. It actually feels like you’re gliding.”
Racing is scheduled from noon until 5:30 p.m. Friday and from 6:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. Saturday. . . . The Captain Bill Robinson, a memorial shell for the former Crew Classic president who was murdered in February 1988, will be christened Friday at 10 a.m. at Crown Point Shores. It will be dedicated to the Naval Academy for use in this and future Classics.