After program cuts, students reflect on lightweight rowing’s legacy
Although the program came to an abrupt end in July after the College cut five varsity teams, the lightweight rowing team leaves behind a legacy of success, teamwork and a strong work ethic.
Founded in the 1940s, the lightweight team won three championships over the course of its history, with back-to-back titles in 1993 and 1994, followed by its most recent championship in 2007. Perhaps the most notable alumnus of the lightweight program is Anthony Fahden ’09, a two-time Olympian who led the Big Green to its 2007 championship victory.
Former team captain Sean Ward ’21 said he will remember the program not only for its victories on the water, but also for its impact on Dartmouth and the Hanover area.
“The team was founded back in the early 1900s, and since then it has become a great community for the athletes, alumni and coaches,” Ward said. “Taking that away was taking away a big part of Dartmouth.”
Head coach Dan Roock, who coached Dartmouth from 2009 to 2012 and then rejoined the Big Green in 2018, reflected on the team’s well-roundedness..
“A lightweight rower is really representative of the student body at Dartmouth,” Roock said. “Not only is a lightweight rower the size of an average student, but they are very academically strong and interested in school and in the team.”
Roock also emphasized how rewarding it was to watch the team grow from one season to the next.
“In my second stint here, the most rewarding moment was when we went down to Florida for a training trip,” he said. “We had put together a fast boat, and the rowers just kept getting better and better. It was so uplifting and encouraging to see the rowing was at such a high level.”
Although the team has seen a streak of disappointing seasons in recent years, it had high expectations for this past spring after training hard through the winter. After the spring season was ultimately canceled, many hoped to show off their hard work in the next season, but were left disappointed when they found out they would not get the opportunity to compete for the Big Green again.
Lightweight rower Max Marchiony ’22 said he had been looking forward to seeing what the team could do after its hard work in the winter.
“The spring of 2020 was going to be awesome,” Marchiony said. “We’d done a ton of training in the winter, and it was kind of taken away. It left us on a bad note because 2018 and 2019 … weren’t good years. I was super excited about what was to come.”
Roock echoed this sentiment, noting that he believed the incoming recruits would provide the added push that the team needed to get over the hump and fight for a championship.
“I think we would have been quite good,” Roock said. “The recruiting class coming in … was really outstanding, both academically and athletically. So we were super excited with that group because, combined with the improvements as a team, [and] adding this fresh group of really talented guys, we thought we [would] be right at the top of our game again … shooting for Ivy championships.”
One of these recruits, along with several other members of the team, will be making a transition to heavyweight rowing to continue their collegiate rowing careers. According to former lightweight and now heavyweight rower Gabe Kotsonis ’22, eight lightweight rowers have decided to make the switch, but only three are currently on campus practicing with their new team. Kotsonis said that he decided to join the heavyweight program because he loves rowing and did not want the program cuts to spoil the end of his rowing career.
Although he said he is well prepared for the transition, Kotsonis noted that it has been a considerable change from the lightweight program, primarily because the training regimen and team culture differ from his lightweight experience. Additionally, the pandemic has significantly altered their practice schedule, resulting in practices almost every morning and individual workouts each weekday afternoon.
While Marchiony does not plan to join the heavyweight team, he will continue to row in the future and believes a number of his teammates will as well, even if not for the Big Green. In fact, he is confident that at least one of these athletes will go on to have a successful rowing career beyond Dartmouth.
“I would be shocked if there wasn’t a former Dartmouth lightweight who makes a national team or an Olympic team in the coming years,” Marchiony said.
Alumni like Fahden have shown that these accomplishments are within reach and that there are opportunities to succeed in rowing beyond Dartmouth. Marchiony said it is helpful and motivating to have alumni that have paved the path for success in rowing after college.
“It’s inspiring … especially knowing that there were guys who maybe weren’t national champions in college but went on and were fantastic athletes and Olympians,” Marchiony said. “It goes to show that there is something beyond just this team. This isn’t the last step. It can be a step of preparation to something even better.”
Ultimately, despite the program’s cancellation, the teammates believe their friendships will persist.
“Anyone who I rowed with … I’m going to stay in touch with and I’m going to be connected with for years to come,” Marchiony said.