PHILADELPHIA - Heading into Eastern Sprints this weekend, the University of Pennsylvania men's lightweight rowing team boasts the No. 1 freshman boat in the country. On Monday, head coach Nick Baker announced the next incoming freshman class. Twelve committed members make up the Class of 2017 with each bringing a high level of rowing experience to the Penn boathouse.
"This is another exciting class for us," said Baker, who is in his fourth season at the helm of the Red and Blue. "Not only do they each bring extensive rowing experience, but they are equally accomplished in the classroom and all have the potential to be tremendous leaders for our program and our University."
Eight different states are represented in the Class of 2017, led by four from Pennsylvania and two from New York. Three are from the greater Philadelphia area - Jack Ford (La Salle College HS), (Haverford School) and (Roman Catholic) - while Jeff Wang (San Francisco, Calif.) will have the furthest trip to campus. New Jersey, Massachusetts, Florida, South Carolina and Maryland are also represented among the incoming freshmen.
Below is an in-depth look at each of the 12 soon-to-be Quakers.
Hometown: Ocean City, N.J.
High School Team: Ocean City
High School Coach: Mike Millar
Rowing Highlights: First Place High School Lightweight at Greenhead Sprints in 2012 ... Stroked the first place Lightweight 8 at the Atlantic County Championship in 2012.
Why I chose Penn: I chose Penn because of all of the incredible academic opportunities combined with a rich tradition of rowing on the Schuylkill River.
What I love about rowing: I love rowing because it promotes unity, hard work, and dedication.Also, I really enjoy being on the water.
Favorite professional athlete: Jimmy Rollins.
Hometown: Warrington, Pa.
High School Team: La Salle College HS
High School Coach: Tom Madden
Rowing Highlights: Multiple medals from Philadelphia City Championships and Stotesbury Cup Regatta ... First LaSalle Varsity 8 to make the grand final at SRAA Nationals in almost a decade ... Junior National Team Development and Selection Camps.
Why I chose Penn: I chose Penn because it was truly unlike anywhere else. The team dynamics and the sense of community, both for the P150 and the University as a whole, made me realize how unique Penn really is. I knew from the beginning that Penn would provide me with the perfect combination of academics and unmatched athletic commitment, and as the recruiting process progressed it became more and more evident that it was the team and community that I was meant to be a part of.
What I love about rowing: Rowing has taught me how it really feels to work hard and have that hard work rewarded, and I have seen that work ethic evident in all aspects of my life. Rowing has shown me how truly rewarding it feels to be a committed part of something bigger and more significant than yourself, leaving a season knowing that you gave it your all.
Favorite professional athlete: Laird Hamilton
Hometown: Bethesda, Md.
High School Team: Pomfret School (Pomfret, Conn.)
High School Coach: Greg Rossolimo
Rowing Highlights: Three-year open-weight varsity member ... Team captain senior year ... Seventh at 2012 NEIRA Championships ... High school's lightweight 2k record holder.
Why I chose Penn: The opportunities available at Penn are unbelievable. The campus life is great and I'm looking forward to studying business at Wharton next year. The Penn rowing program was also a major draw for me. It's going to be an exciting team to be on the next four years.
What I love about rowing: There is something special about being on the water everyday and not having anything to worry about except what I'm doing at that moment. I love how the countless hours spent training come together in a race and remind me that it's all worth it.
Favorite professional athlete: Lewis Hamilton
Gerard David Hoeltzel
Height: 6' 3''
Hometown: Wayne, Pa.
High School Team: The Haverford School
High School Coaches: Jim Barker, Jon Stephanik, and Tom Henwood
Rowing Highlights: Second Place in junior 4x at 2012 Independence Day Regatta ... First place in junior 4x at 2012 Cooper Cup ... Second Place at 2012 Kings Head Regatta in varsity 4x and fourth place at 2012 Club Nationals in Junior 4x.
Why I Chose Penn: City atmosphere, strong academics, rowing hub in Philadelphia, social atmosphere, and Coach Farrell.
What I love about rowing: Fitness, team camaraderie, competitive atmosphere at every race and the amount of hard work that goes into winning a single race.
Favorite Professional Athlete: Carmelo Anthony
Hometown: North Babylon, N.Y.
High School Team: Chaminade
High School Coach: Lawrence Moebius
Rowing Highlights: Stroked the 2011 New York State champion junior varsity eight ... 2011 and 2012 Stotesbury Cup finalist as stroke and two seat in the junior eight and varsity eight, respectively ... Stroked a 2011 SRAA junior varsity finalist boat ... 2012 Youth Nationals varsity 8 finalist ... Stroked a 2012 Canadian Henley Men's U-19 eight finalist boat.
Why I chose Penn: Because out of all of my visits, I felt the most at home at Penn. Everyone made me feel welcome and I really liked the atmosphere.
What I love about rowing: Winning. It's that moment with 400 meters left when you know that nobody can catch you and all the pain of the race is numbed away by the idea of walking on the field for a gold medal.
Favorite professional athlete: Tyson Chandler.
Hometown: Philadelphia, Pa.
High School Team: Roman Catholic
High School Coach: Christian Bratton
Rowing Highlights: First place at 2012 Stotesbury Regatta in junior quad ... First place at 2012 SRAA National Regatta in junior quad ... Third place at 2012 Youth National Regatta in the double ... Third place at 2012 Club National Regatta in U-19 quad ... Third Place at 2012 Royal Canadian Henley Regatta in U-19 double ... Fourth Place at 2012 Head of the Charles Regatta in Youth double.
Why I chose Penn: I chose Penn because it is a great school. The academics are superb and rarely matched anywhere else. It is a great environment to be in. I can still remain in the city, without that city feeling since Penn is its own little neighborhood. The athletics are amazing and I hope to improve at rowing while at Penn.
What I love about rowing: I love being on the river and rowing with my teammates. I love knowing that no matter how hard I push myself there is a guy behind and in front of me doing the same thing. The feeling of everyone rowing as one as the boat glides through the water is the best feeling in the world.
Favorite professional athlete: Chase Utley
Hometown: Oyster Bay, N.Y.
High School Team: Friends Academy Crew
High School Coach: Monika Zdrojewska
Rowing Highlights: Second place finish at 2012 New York State Championships in the double ... Finalist at 2012 Scholastic Nationals in the double.
Why I chose Penn: I chose Penn for a number of reasons. First of all, I love the campus and the school. In terms of academics, it has the variety of a liberal arts school with the resources of a top research institution. I also loved the coaches and the team and felt that it would be the perfect fit for me.
What I love about rowing: I have always been a physical, active kid and rowing definitely covers those bases. It also has a level of competitiveness that I have found in very few other things. There is also camaraderie with the team that is unlike any other sport.
Favorite professional athlete: Hines Ward.
Hometown: Philadelphia, Pa.
High School Team: Philadelphia City Rowing
High School Coach: Dana Schmunk
Rowing Highlights: Earned gold medals at Novice 8 Philadelphia City Championships (2012), Dr. White Novice Regatta (2011), Cooper Cup mens varsity four (2013) ... Garnered silver medals at City Championships in mens varsity pair (2013), Hutchinson Cups in mens varsity four (2011, 2012) ... Earned bronze medals at Club Nationals in mens lightweight 8 with Penn AC Gold juniors and Cooper Cup mens varsity four (2012).
Why I chose Penn: Penn felt like home. Not in the sense that it is close and comfortable, but somewhere that I can be myself. I love my city, and though I hope to study abroad I want to stick around a little longer, and give back what I can. The academic reputation and caliber obviously were alluring. The chance to continue to row and compete in college was a pillar as well. The campus is amazing. The people are amazing. Penn is amazing.
What I love about rowing: When I row, I let go of everything else I’m doing or thinking and I'm free for those couple hours on the water, or few minutes in a race. I love the competition, maintaining my mental and physical fitness.
Favorite professional athlete: Ted Nash.
Hometown: Charleston, S.C.
Club Team: Charleston Rowing Club
High School Coach: Robert D'Italia
Rowing Highlights: Fourth place at 2012 Club Nationals in intermediate lightweight 8+ ... Also rowed at 2012 Club Nationals in intermediate lightweight 4+ and 2012 Junior Club Nationals in varsity 8 ... Served as team captain for two years.
Why I Chose Penn:Penn presents the opportunity to receive an Ivy League education while rowing with some of the best lightweight rowers in the nation under the direction of an excellent coaching staff.
What I Love About Rowing: Rowing is an organized chaos, particularly with the high stroke rates of lightweights in a 2k. There is a unique feeling of sitting in a boat, your body moving absurdly fast, and yet through some connection with your teammates the whole thing manages to move in perfect synchrony.
Favorite Professional Athlete: Xeno Muller
Height: 6' 1"
Hometown: Winchester, Mass.
High School Team: Belmont Hill School
High School Coach: Chris Richards
Rowing Highlights: Won at NEIRA's in 2010 and 2012.
Why I chose Penn: I thought that I would have many great academic opportunities and that living in the city would be both new and exciting.
What I love about rowing: I love seeing how hard work brings results.
Favorite Professional Athlete: Dustin Pedroia
Hometown: San Francisco, Calif.
Club Team: Pacific Rowing Club
High School Coach: Robert Maclean
Rowing Highlights: Men's Lightweight Double 2012 Youth National Champions ... Men's Lightweight Double 2011 and 2012 Southwest Regional Champions ... U-19 Tandem Lightweight 100k World Record ... Two-time team captain.
Why I chose Penn: Penn offers a perfect environment for the student-athlete to thrive. The urban setting reminds me of San Francisco, while the wide-range academics, sports, and activities offered at Penn allows students to pursue their academic and career goals while enjoying their college experiences to the fullest. In addition, Penn's lightweight rowing is on the upswing, and I'm looking forward to train hard and win with fellow classmates.
What I love about rowing: Pushing your body beyond your perceived mental and physical limits is unbelievably satisfying. Doing it with hardworking teammates that are pushing you, however, is even more fulfilling. When you combine this with rightfully earned gold medals around your teammates' necks, rowing becomes a sport where you're only as strong as your weakest link -motivating each individual to work together and work their hardest.
Favorite professional athlete: Chris McCormack
Hometown: Winter Park, Fla.
High School Team: Winter Park Crew
High School Coach: Dan Bertossa
Rowing Highlights: Stotesbury in 2010 ... 2012 Canadian Henley ... 2012 Head of the Charles ... 2012 Head of the Hooch.
Why I chose Penn: I chose Penn to study in the Wharton program and to help make the lightweight program the fastest in the nation. Being able to live in Philadelphia and row out of Boathouse Row are just two more perks.
What I love about rowing: Rowing creates a great bond between teammates that carries over into areas outside of the rowing world. The sport itself is quite demanding on the mind and the body; I enjoy finding and pushing past the limits for both of those factors.
Favorite professional athlete: Kurt Warner