Friday, March 30, 2012

RR Friday Interview: Lightweight Sculler Nick Trojan, Part I

While you might not know it yet, Nick Trojan is a name you are likely to hear for years to come. Trojan has had international experience before, but following a fall rowing with Carlos Dinares on Lake Samish, Trojan has burst onto the senior national team candidate list with a fantastic performance in the men’s single at the first National Selection Regatta, placing fourth in a field of 38, behind only Beijing Olympians Ken Jurkowski, RR interviewee Warren Anderson, and Sam Stitt. And did I mention that Trojan is a lightweight? Here, Trojan shares some info on his background in the sport and the racing at NSR I, with a view toward further trailing this summer.

RR: How did you first get into rowing? What was it that hooked you about the sport?

NT: I started rowing at LBJC, and wasn’t that into it until I got about midway through the season and we started racing. I won my first race in a novice quad–that was the beginning of my sculling career–I wasn’t a fan of doing all the work in the beginning; I missed all the head races because I was only rowing to be in shape. But I finally raced, and winning was a big hook–it made it all seem worth it. I rowed three years there and finished rowing there as a senior in high school in the men’s lightweight double and the men’s lightweight four.

My double partner and I ended up winning [junior worlds] trials in the heavyweight double. We went to junior worlds and we got pretty well smashed there–it was good experience, but it was very tough to go from what we thought was pretty good, to very slow. But it was fun.

I rowed at OCC after high school. It was tough going from a place where most of the guys were experienced to a walk-on-oriented program at Coast. Also, I ended up being one of the smallest guys on the team. I raced with the OCC frosh eight at Crew Classic, and we placed third that year [behind Cal and Stanford].

RR: After leaving OCC, how did you get started sculling again and when did you realize you could take it to the next level?

NT: A year passed following my two years at OCC. I went to U23s in 2010 in the lightweight double, and after another time getting totally smashed I decided I would either quit or find another place to go. Nick D’Antoni [multi national champion coach with the Newport AC juniors, now men’s head coach at Long Beach Juniors] referred me to Carlos [Dinares], but I was still taking classes at OCC–after my fourth semester at Coast I moved up to Carlos’  training center in 2011. We started working from there on getting to senior trials, because U23s trails were only two or three weeks after I got up there. It was good because it was a way higher level than I had ever seen before.

We went there and I had a tough heat. I raced against Dan Urevick-Ackelsberg, who is very experienced. I pretty much went crazy in the first half of the race, and all that work in the first half caught up to me in the end, and Dan caught me in the final stretch, so I went into the reps.. I won my rep, but when I woke up the next morning for my semifinal, I was totally shot from the first day–I kind of knew it was over at that point, but went out and raced the semi as best I could.

It was cool, because I got to line up and race against Andrew Campbell, who’s the top lightweight sculler in the U.S. and in this part of the world. We had lined up against one another in high school, but seeing him in his top form was even better. Of course he crushed the field that day, and the next day.

I went back to Carlos’s after that in the fall and the rest of 2011. We kind of restarted rowing. Carlos was really helpful in establishing a new reality for me, and giving me a whole new perspective on setting what my standards should be. What I thought I knew, I discovered I had no idea.

I spent the fall up in Washington, and got to do a few erg pieces with the guys at UW; I got to sit down on an erg right next to some of the top guys in the world, and that experience really helped me to step up to another level of intensity in training. I finished off the fall, and was supposed to head back in the spring of this year, but when I got home to Southern California for the winter, I had a great deal of fun, saw my friends who were back from college or moving forward with it, and just generally enjoyed life. I was still training, because I was going to head back up to Carlos’s, but I turned 21 in January, and the day afterward I realized I didn’t want to go back up there, because it was such a difficult thing. I felt like I wanted to go back to school, and figure something else out.

I laid off the rowing for a week, and thought about other things. I was going back and forth in my head, thinking, ‘Do I really want to row this season? Do I want to just relax and watch the Olympic Trials happen?’ But I kept rowing to stay in shape, and about a week before NSR I, I did a 2k on the erg and recorded a personal best–I realized I wasn’t in that bad of shape, and the entries closed only two days after the test, so I decided to enter and give it a run.

The second half of Nick Trojan's interview to be posted next Friday, 6 April. In the meantime, Crew Classic weekend is here! Time to see how all the picks and predictions play out, and good luck to everyone racing!

-RR

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