When Newport Aquatic Center varsity eight head coach Jeff Collett took over for his best friend, former head coach Rick D’Antoni, he had to keep up with tradition.
In just his second season, Collett has done just that, returning the rowing team to the Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston. He’s done it with just one returner from a 2009 team that finished third in Boston, Newport Harbor senior Gordy Box.
The team will compete Sunday at 1:15 p.m. Eastern Standard Time at the Charles River in Boston.
NAC will be the 62nd boat out of 78 total boats in the event. There is one big-time trial that will determine the winner, along with the top five that will be medalists, and so on. The eight-person team left on a flight from Los Angeles on Thursday morning and will return to L.A. on Sunday night.
“We got in from a random draw,” Collett said. “We didn’t get in from last time. We had to put our name in. To re-qualify, you have to qualify in the top half, or the top 35.”
The course will run along the Charles River in Boston near the Cambridge boathouse, down the main channel and below five main bridges that were all constructed around 1913. The challenge is the team will not necessarily row against another boat side-by-side, as in other races. Plus, other teams may or may not move out of the way as they’re maneuvering along the river.
“Not only are you racing against the other teams, you are racing against the clock,” Collett said. “You don’t have someone pushing you the whole way.”
Collett rowed with D’Antoni at Orange Coast College. He was an assistant coach at UC San Diego in 2009 for one year, before joining D’Antoni’s staff at Newport Aquatic Center for one year. D’Antoni left to join a Long Beach junior program after four years of leading NAC.
“Rick is one of my best friends,” Collett said. “I’m trying to fill in for what he’s already done. We’re looking to continue what we’ve been doing. I’d hesitate to give a prediction of how we’ll do. Things are going very well. I’d hope we’d finish in the top half or perhaps in the top 15.”
In what Collett describes as “giving the keys to your Escalade to your 15-year-old,” the eight row a 65-foot boat that’s not terribly wide that costs approximately $40,000. Corona del Mar High senior Chase Roosin is in the stroke position, which is at the back of the boat. Colin Johnson, a senior out of St. Margaret’s, is on the bow seat at the front of the boat facing toward his teammates. Another key member is Newport Harbor senior Sarah Zoamya, the coxswain who is in charge of steering the boat and shouts instructions at her teammates through a megaphone. The boys in the middle of the boat, in order of front to back, are: Newport Harbor junior Brandon Metzger, Newport Harbor junior Cameron Geehr, Corona del Mar junior Matt Karnan, Newport Harbor junior Kyle Flagg and St. Margaret’s senior Nick Zusman.
The upperclassmen leadership has certainly been a part of why they’ve been so successful. There are 45 rowers on the overall roster, so Collett had a tough time picking the best eight because there are so many quality rowers to choose from.
“I took over a very successful program,” Collett said. “I’ve just tried to implement what I’ve learned from my years in coaching into what they already know. They’ve rowed for us for three years, on average.”
Collett and his team will see just how successful they can be in Massachusetts.
Coach Collett will be keeping track of both the race and the overall trip on his Web blog at https://newportrowing.blogspot.com. Results should be posted by approximately noon on Sunday.