Once upon a time, long, long ago, St. A’s crew team plied Merrimack


Courtesy/Saint Anselm Yearbook

The Saint Anselm crew team poses for annual club photograph circa 2000.

James Lacefield, Opinion Editor

Saint Anselm College, situated on the hills overlooking the Merrimack River, was once host to a club rowing team which competed at regattas across New England. Rowing has been a popular collegiate sport in Europe and America for nearly two centuries and has since become a major international sport, as was made evident in this past summer’s Olympic games. Regattas have sprung up throughout the country, especially in southern and central New England, where you rarely have to drive more than 30 minutes to come across navigable water such as the Merrimack. With so many opportunities to row in college, high school and private club teams have also become exceedingly popular in the region, feeding young rowers into collegiate crews.

The Saint Anselm team, taking advantage of the numerous waterways in the region, raced in events such as the Head of the Connecticut in Middletown, Connecticut, and the Textile River Regatta in Lowell, Massachusetts, where the men’s novice four (a boat of four freshman rowers) placed second in their event with an astonishing three-mile time of 22 minutes 56.69 seconds in 1995. Other Anselmian crews put out competitive times against schools such as Harvard, Yale, Boston College, and Holy Cross, all schools with extremely prestigious rowing teams in the present day. This begs the question, what happened to the Saint Anselm crew team?

The club rowing team no longer exists today for a myriad of problems associated with the rowing community, the foremost of which is the high cost of entry. A heavily used racing shell without its accompanying rigging, furnishings, and oars can cost upwards of $5,000. New, fully equipped boats can have price tags above $30,000. These pricey boats and accompanying equipment are unfortunately not a one-time investment for crew teams, leading to the second issue facing small organizations such as the Saint Anselm club team. The fragile fiberglass and carbon fiber used to make the shells, oars, and rigging, is in constant need of attention and repair, and more severe accidents can render shells a complete loss. Severe weather has been known to destroy entire trailers of boats for rowing teams, and while larger teams can absorb the losses, small club teams like the late Saint Anselm team have to face the circumstances and cut their losses. The legacy of the team has now been reduced to decades old race results published in rowing magazines, and the ghosts of wrecked racing shells which are rumored to haunt the underbelly of Grappone Stadium.

As of now, there is no club rowing team at Saint Anselm College, however there are several other teams in the region that service both high school and college level rowers, such as private and public school teams as well as private clubs. As the fall rowing season begins to get under way, and the Head of the Charles, one of the largest regattas in the world, taking place in less than a month just down the road in Cambridge, Massachusetts, one begins to wonder if there could be a future for Saint Anselm Rowing. The availability of rowing often attracts well qualified students to competing schools, and other students may have to give up their passion for rowing in order to follow their dreams of being an Anselmian.

While the initial cost of re-establishing a crew team on campus would be high, it could attract even more student-athletes to the college, especially from the local high school and private teams, and prove to bolster Saint Anselm’s standings in both academic and athletic fields.