By Reece Foster
The UCLA men’s rowing team glided with ease across the water, where everything seemed to be going right, they completed a “perfect row.”
A successful row requires all the rowers to be in near perfect harmony, a unique kind of cooperation that makes rowing the epitome of a team sport.
If one rower can’t execute, then this harmony is broken up like a dissonant chord.
“The best part about it is when you have a perfect row and you’re in perfect unison with your team,” said Zev Finnley, a third-year mathematics student.
“You work all this time and when you get it, it’s just great.”
Under Coach Scott Charette’s direction the past two years, the team has grown vastly, with the number of returning athletes more than quadrupling.
As a result, the team continues to improve with each year, despite not reaping the benefits of NCAA standing at UCLA ““ men’s rowing has been a club sport at UCLA since 1991.
“My first day last season we had seven guys. We finished this season with 46 athletes. So in one year, we went from seven returners to about 30,” Charette said.
“Depth is what builds speed. I think our second-level boat next year will be as fast as our varsity was this year.”
This growth has been critical to the team’s success, by virtue of having more athletes which increases the competition within the team.
The highlight of this is third-year civil engineering student and team captain Jeffrey Latham, who was one of only 18 athletes nationwide invited to go to the 2012 Men’s Under 23 National Team Sculling Camp in Norwalk, Conn.
Even more impressive, Latham was one of just two rowers to be selected who are not on an NCAA team.
“It’s a testament to the competition we have on our own team,” Latham said.
“I feel very honored to have been chosen for this, but even more so I think it’s more reflective of our own team, how far the program has come.”
The camp is used to select the men’s quadruple sculls, which will have the opportunity to compete at the World Rowing Under 23 Championships in Trakai, Lithuania, on July 11-15.
“With this being an Olympic year, the guys that they are inviting to these camps are the guys that they’re looking at for the next quadrennial,” Charette said.
“The guys come in and train for the next Olympics in 2016.”
The Bruins hope that Latham’s achievements will help establish the program as not only one of the best men’s rowing teams on the West Coast, but in the nation.
“It gets (Latham’s) name out there, and our program out there,” Finnley said. “It helps us be taken seriously.”
The team has had a strong 2012, as the varsity eight finished fourth in the B final at the American Collegiate Rowing Association Championships this season.
“That was our first time in a few years attending that ACRA Regatta. It is a really good stepping stone for next year where we have a really great opportunity to be looking at some medals in that,” Latham said.
“It all comes down to how much time everyone is putting in.”
Because the men’s rowing team is not funded by the university, alumni support through Friends of UCLA Rowing is pivotal to the program’s growth and continued success.
Their work has paid off as the program has been on the upward trend for two seasons now.
“We want to continue to make this extracurricular activity available to them on a continual basis, and we want to make that experience and opportunity as high quality as possible,” said Bob Newman, a 1968 alumnus of the program.
“If they continue to follow that formula of success, I think the future portends pretty well for the program.”