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The Dartmouth
April 18, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

College hosts U23 Men’s Sweep Selection Camp for first time since 2015

The U23 Men’s Sweep Selection Camp aims to develop the top American rowers under age 23, many of whom have aspirations to compete in the World Rowing Under 23 Championships in Bulgaria.

Courtesy of John Graves

 On June 15, 26 rowers from across the country arrived on campus for the 2023 U23 Rowing Men’s Sweep Selection Camp, a three-week training ground which will last until July 7. Dartmouth last hosted the camp in 2015. 

During the training period, coaches select athletes to represent the United States at the 2023 World Rowing Under 23 Championships, which will take place from July 19 to July 23. At the end of the camp, the athletes selected to complete will remain in Hanover to train for an additional week before leaving for Bulgaria on July 13, according to Dartmouth Athletics. 

A record number of Dartmouth heavyweight rowers are in attendance at the camp, with Sammy Houdaigui ’25, Jacob Hudgins ’23, Munroe Robinson ’25 and Julian Thomas ’25 representing the Big Green.

Dartmouth tied with University of California, Berkeley for the university with the most rowers in attendance. which Robinson attributed to the camp’s coach, Dartmouth heavyweight assistant coach John Graves. Robinson said that Graves encouraged Dartmouth rowers to apply.

“I was not planning on doing this camp at all until Graves approached me and told me to consider applying,” Robinson said. “I filled out the form and basically a week later got an invitation based on my erging time.” 

Robinson also explained that the camp has different stages, with an initial adapting stage, training stage and final selection stage. Robinson said that Dartmouth rowers were familiar with Graves’s coaching style, which made adapting to the camp’s routine easier.

“We spent the first few days just learning how to row with one another, and the coaches were communicating the style of row,” Robinson said. “Every team has a slightly different style, so the first few days were just about communicating how [the coach] wants us to [row] and getting the guys from other programs to sort of adopt that.” 

In order for the coaches to make selections, the rowers do seat racing —the process of assembling random boat lineups and “swapping two guys across the two boats together and determining how that affects the speed of each boat,” according to Robinson.

Three of the Dartmouth rowers participating in the selection camp are also full-time students. Houdaigui described his experience managing classes during the selection camp as positive.

“The professors are very understanding and accommodating,” Houdaigui said. “They’re very supportive of trying to pursue the US team. If [any] of us make the squad, we’ll miss like 10 days of classes, and I’ve spoken to both my professors about that, and they’re just excited for the opportunity.” 

Hudgins said the goals of the camp are to bring home a gold medal for the United States, to develop athletes and to help bring them closer to making higher level teams in their athletic careers. 

“The goal of it is to go to Worlds and to win the gold medal,” Hudgins said. “Beyond that is also the development of guys who have hopes of making a higher level team in the future. It’s also just bringing guys together in different programs, and learning how to row with different guys is super valuable.”

Graves added that he leads the camp in order to encourage enthusiasm for the sport.

“To me, U23s is about getting guys excited about pursuing rowing at the next level,” Graves said. “I think we’re obviously trying to select boats and make fast boats, but I think more than that it’s about showing them that this is a potential pathway for them.”

Houdaigui noted Dartmouth’s unique position, as the heavyweight team is mostly American, unlike most other American-based training camps. 

“Most of the other squads in the country are very international, and we’re majority American, and that’s unique,” Houdaigui said. “For us, this isn’t a totally new experience, but the other guys are commenting on how it’s weird to be rowing with all Americans, and how that’s actually kind of a neat experience for them.” 

Graves added that the Dartmouth team has a strong foundation based upon American rowers, explaining that the coaches in the program believe in developing their American men, as many other teams are highly international. Graves largely credited heavyweight coach Wyatt Allen for building a large contingent of fast American men. 

Some rowers noted advantages of having the camp coached by Graves and hosted by Dartmouth.

“Coach Graves really stepped up and really wanted to take it on, so then the camp is going to be in Hanover,” Hudgins said. “And I think the river and the boathouse are both perfectly sufficient for a camp like this, and the extensive alumni group helps house people from other schools.”

Graves attributed his willingness to lead the selection camp to his dedication to the national tem.

“I think Wyatt and I both felt really strongly about supporting our national team,” Graves said. “We felt we had an amazing venue to offer to the national team here, and that Hanover is as good as it gets in the summer.” 

International rowers from Dartmouth are currently competing for their home country teams. Felix Rawlinson ’23 is training with Great Britain in Caversham Lakes, UK, and James Isles ’25 is training with Australia in Princeton, New Jersey.

“Despite this being my second year in a row at the U23 selection camp, I am always surprised by the depth and talent of the British rowing squad,” Rawlinson said. “The selection process the last week of camp is incredibly grueling and stressful. I just hope to be on the right side of selection next week.”

Isles noted both the honor and difficulty of making the Australian camp.

“It’s definitely a very challenging campaign; a lot is demanded of you, and the weight of representing your country is something that you need to embrace,” Isles said. “At the same time, it’s great fun to be around your mates, get a change of scenery and realize that this pressure is a privilege.”

At the end of the camp, the team will be cut in half to about 12 rowers, two coxswains and one alternate who make the team, according to Hudgins. The selected team will travel to Bulgaria from July 19 through July 23 for the World World Rowing Under 23 Championships.

“Every day I come to the boathouse and I’m like, ‘wow, we get to do this,’” Graves said. “I’m really excited by just how good of a group they are — as far as quickly unifying over a shared goal and coming together as a group — and they’ve been really fun to be around. But I’m just excited to see where it goes if we can just keep building momentum over the next few weeks to the World Championships.”