Crew video produced by Randolph Xu '18
For over 80 years Salisbury School has been training young men in what many consider to be the ultimate team sport. Those who have been involved in rowing here at any level have developed deep and lasting friendships, strong bodies and minds, and self-discipline which have served them throughout their lives.
Countless Salisbury oarsmen have gone on to row on top college crews and many have attained national, international and Olympic heights. The Salisbury coaching staff is highly dedicated with deep experience both as coaches and competitors. A spring training trip to warmer climes is an annual event in March and we often compete in international regattas, most notably the Royal Henley Regatta in England.
Our lake with a three lane, 1500 meter course, is the envy of many other rowing schools. It is pristine with very few houses and is virtually private in regards to disruptive boat traffic. The boathouse is a state of the art post and beam architectural wonder that must be seen to be believed.
Salisbury School has long been a major strength in schoolboy rowing and will continue to grow in that role for years to come.
Salisbury in the Olympics
Looking out from the Salisbury boathouse you might well think yourself in northern Maine or even backwoods Alaska. There are days when the Taconic Range, a mile to the west and almost 2000 feet higher, is reflected on the surface so that the view is the same whether you’re standing on your feet or on your head.
At its most severe the lake throws up foot and a half milk tooth waves, which may make a workout non-productive, but can’t compare to the fangs through which shells on the Hudson or Severn have to plow. Our lone boathouse is a far cry from the dock-to-dock gridlock of Boathouse Row in Philadelphia or the rowing equivalent of L.A. freeways, the Charles. In its unpretentiousness and Zen-like demeanor our lake would seem to be anything but the incubator of greatness, the cradle of Olympic grandeur, but so it has been five times and in all probability will be again.
If Salisbury has ever made itself known in international athletics it has done so through rowing. In addition to the many Salisbury oarsmen who have strengthened the ranks of major rowing colleges and a handful who have gone on to make U. S. teams, both junior and elite, five have pulled their way to Olympic finish lines.
The first to attain the heights of Mt. Olympus was Hugh Stevenson, ‘68, who helped power the l972 U.S. eight to a silver medal in the Munich games. Fresh out of the University of Pennsylvania, Hugh was in the first U.S. eight ever to be selected from the camp system. The best oarsmen from the nation’s schools and clubs are invited to camp and from that elite group is drawn the even more elite group that will become Olympians.
The 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles had two Salisbury representatives: Tom Kiefer ‘76, was in the four with coxswain and Greg Montesi ‘78, was seated in the quadruple scull. Tom’s silver medal boat led for much of the race but was just overtaken at the finish by the British. (That British boat had Steve Redgrave in it, an oarsman who made rowing history by winning gold medals in four consecutive Olympics.) Greg’s boat battled hard but was not able to make the finals. It was the first U.S. quad to ever race in the games. Before coming to Salisbury Greg had already made a mark in the rowing world by winning a medal as a single sculler in the World Junior Championships.
The most recent Salisbury Olympians were Porter Collins ‘93, who rowed in the 1996 games in Atlanta, and Elliot Hovey ’02, who represented the U.S. in the 2008 Olympics in Bejing.
Porter’s eight was highly touted, but on the day of the finals their best could not win them a medal. Porter was a reigning world champion at the time, having won that title in a four the previous summer. Porter returned to Brown University to finish his last year of studies after that, having taken a year off to concentrate on Atlanta. Four years later, Elliot battled his way through a grueling process to win the honor of rowing for the U.S. team in the 2008 double sculls event. The competition was scorching and Elliot and his partner ending up winning the C finals of that event.
And so the cycle continues. What scrawny, bright-eyed novice may lope down the rocky road to Lake Washinee this spring and after a metamorphosis of four, eight, twelve or sixteen years appear on our televisions, a brawny, fierce-eyed stalwart pulling for his country’s glory in future Olympiads?
OARS: Organization for the Assistance of Rowing at Salisbury
Founded in 2011 following decades of tireless organization and enthusiasm by contemporary parents, OARS is the formal parent-led organization that supports the race-day entourage and other important day-to-day needs of the rowing program at Salisbury.
Recent results. www.row2k.com
History of the Program
Salisbury School acquired its first pair of shells and erected its first boathouse on the shores of Lake Washinee in 1930, and for the next four years, intramural teams competed each spring in a series of crew races. Salisbury conducted its first interscholastic meet with South Kent School in 1934. During the remainder of the 1930s the School acquired a few rowing machines to supplement its pair of shells. Races continued between the intramural squads and with the team from South Kent. In 1939, Salisbury purchased two more shells, bringing its small fleet to four boats. Despite gasoline shortages during World War II that limited team travel, Salisbury added Kent and Pomfret to its roster of opponents. The arrival of Navy veteran Jeff Walker shortly after World War II propelled the rowing program into the modern era. Salisbury’s crew enjoyed great success in the 1970s and 1980s under Coach Bruce Blodgett, compiling an undefeated record in 1981. Salisbury captured the national scholastic title for fours with coxswain in 1978 and its first boat won the NEIRA race at Lake Quinsigimond in 1983. Under the guidance of Head Coach Tote Smith, Salisbury won a silver medal at the New England Interscholastic Rowing Championships in 2015 and the gold medal in 2016. The team also won a gold medal at the U.S. Rowing Youth National Championship in both 2015 and 2016. The team has competed at the famed Henley Regatta in Oxfordshire, England on numerous occasions, most recently in 2015. Today the Knights are led by Head Coach Toby Ayer.