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Sports October 11, 2001

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CSU crew ignores the snooze bar

Photo by Ryan Dawson
The Cleveland State crew watches the sun come up during a workout on the Cuyahoga River.

When legendary sports-writer Jim Murray wrote that “boredom is the enemy of the titled class,” he was referring to the European royalty who seek out unique and exhilarating hobbies to liven up their ordinary day-to-day routines.

He was writing about princes who take up auto racing, and dukes who try mountain climbing.

And although he may not have realized it at the time, he was also describing the men and women of the CSU rowing team.

How else could you explain it?

They get up every morning before the sun does. They have hands that feel like they were cut from bumpy leather. They sit in a pencil-thin boat, in the cold, begging their weary bodies for one more stroke, then another, and another.

And after dragging them-selves to school and work, they come back to do it all over again tomorrow, just to be part of something new, something special.

One of the team’s leaders, Scott Spatny, explained that he was tired of regular sports and wanted to find something that would challenge him both men-tally and physically.

“I heard about this team from a guy in one of my classes,” Spatny said. “I decided to check it out one morning last spring, and I’ve been here ever since.”

Spatny, a junior, is rugged and athletic, and built with a quarterback’s frame.

Phil Thomson is not. Admittedly clumsy and slightly unthin, Thomson was drawn to rowing be-cause of its team concept.

“Everyone has a place in this sport,” Thomson said, glancing over at the hodgepodge of sizes on the squad. “I’ve never been too good at sports, but I’m strong and I belong on this crew.”

Thomson does belong, and the way this team interacts is proof of that. Made up of seven men and nine women, the Cleveland State team resembles a family at a reunion that forgot they saw each other just 24 hours ago. They smile and laugh during the morning stretch, and they tell jokes while taking a warm-up jog across the bridge and back.

But aside from the friendships that have blossomed, this team is focused on getting better on the water.

“We want to keep improving,” Thomson said, adjusting his seat within the boat (called a “shell”). “We’ve traveled to Indiana, West Virginia, southern Ohio and Pittsburgh, and each race we feel more comfortable together.”

The team competes against other colleges from throughout the Midwest, including In-diana University, Purdue University, John Carroll University, Case Western University, Ohio Uni-versity, Xavier University, University of Cincinnati, Miami University, Univ-ersity of Charleston and Dayton University.

Thomson explained that rowing at Cleveland State is recognized as a club activity, with very little funding help from the school. “We pretty much pay our own way,” he said. “But it’s worth it, espe-cially when we’re at a re-gatta and we beat some of the big schools.”

That underdog phil-osophy has carried this crew at times.

“The regattas are a blast,” Spatny said. “We usually caravan to the race and get there the night before so we can camp out as a team. We don’t have the experience that some of the other schools do, but we’re getting there.”

The team is coached by Dan DiAngelo, who started rowing while he was at St. Ignatius 12 years ago. DiAngelo shared Thomson’s reasoning for joining crew. “For me,” DiAngelo said, “I’m too small to play any other sport, but I found a com-petitive outlet through rowing.”

For some, it’s the com-petitive side, and for others it’s the exercise. “This is a whole body workout,” Spatny said. “It’s legs, arms and back, and you get an awesome cardiovascular workout, too.” He then added, “Everyone should try it.”

It would be nice if everyone tried it, but then Jim Murray’s claim that boredom is the enemy of the titled class would require a lengthy list of new titles. So, for now, without any lords or princesses, Spatny and his team will have to settle for “dedicated.”

For information on CSU Rowing, contact Dan DiAngelo at (440) 503-7422.

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