Crew Captains: Dealing with Home Confinement

The Lawrenceville Boys Crew team is just one of the many spring athletic teams to have its season derailed by COVID-19.

The Lawrenceville Boys Crew team is just one of the many spring athletic teams to have its season derailed by COVID-19. However, adversity is hardly a stranger to Big Red oarsmen, and Captains Sal Natale ’20 and Andrew Tokarski ’20 exemplify the resilience and tenacity of a Lawrenceville oarsman as they keep in shape and stay motivated throughout these uncertain times. “It’s easy for guys to lose sight of what they love about rowing. You have to treat this spring like it’s still a racing season,” said Natale.

Despite being forced to stay at home, Natale, Tokarski, and several other members of the team have rowing machines at home and are able to continue training rigorously. Each week, the coaches send out weekly training plans, similar to those used during the winter offseason, for everyone to follow. “The most important thing right now is to keep training. Even if you don’t have access to an ergometer, do your best to do some cardio or perhaps some lifting,” said Tokarski in last week’s team Zoom meeting.

One of the biggest things that Natale and Tokarski miss most about the spring season, aside from the racing, is Wednesday practices. Wednesdays are long practice days, with extended time at Mercer Lake, topped by a grueling session in the Al-Rashid Strength and Conditioning Center known as the Power-10 circuit. After practice, everyone always got together for dinner in Irwin Dining Center, often indulging in multiple servings of chocolate milk. While the opportunities for rowing together are limited by current circumstances, the captains are doing what they can with what weights they have at home and are incorporating more bodyweight circuits to their training. A few weeks ago, Natale and Tokarski came up with a March Madness-style weekly bracket challenge, with 32 current members and alumni of the Lawrenceville Crew program joining the challenge. “Off the water for the spring, the boys are [still] ready and hungry for some competition,” said Natale upon the announcement of the challenge on the Boys Crew Instagram page. Tokarski himself logged 80 kilometers on Monday, March 30, advancing to the second round of the challenge. Natale, Tokarski, and the coaches also organized a team Zoom meeting last week for the team to catch up and hopefully experience some of what will be missed in the spring. Going forward, the captains do plan on having a couple more this spring as an opportunity for the guys to get together and enjoy each other's company.

Natale and Tokarski have had a tremendous impact on the younger oarsmen of the team. Oarsman Guy Ferrera ’21 said, “Sal, Tokarski, and the other seniors were such a blast to be around. It’s terrible that I won’t get to row alongside them in their last year.” Ferrera’s sentiment is shared among many fellow oarsmen, with many of the rising seniors aspiring to fill the heart and leadership of the team the way Natale, Tokarski, and the other seniors did this year. Natale offered the following advice to some of the underclassmen of the team: “Have fun with the sport, look up to the older guys, and watch how they approach each day’s workout. You will learn a lot from that.” Though missing their senior spring season has been extremely disappointing, both Natale and Tokarski will be continuing their rowing careers in college at the Division 1 level.

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