While the UW 'Dawgs' may be dominant, they're not the only Huskies on the block. The Northeastern University Huskies had a breakout regular season this year, spurred by a very strong sophomore class and backed by what may be an even more talented frosh squad, which posted a bronze medal finish at the 2012 IRA national championships. Under the guidance of head coach John Pojednic, as well as associate head coach Ted Benford, NU posted sweeps of Georgetown, Boston University, and Penn during the 2012 campaign. Following the racing in Camden, I spoke with Coach Pojednic about the recent developments for the Northeastern squad, this year's results, and what to expect in the years to come.
RR: As a head coach, how encouraging is it to see the freshman class perform so well at the IRA?
John Pojednic: Next year will be my thirteenth as head coach, and this is the first point where I feel we've had some real momentum going forward. About 75% of our team is made up of freshmen and sophomores right now, and anytime in the past where we've had a grand final performance it's typically been the case that the whole boat graduates, and that's that–it takes us another three years to get back. So this is the first time that I feel like we really have some traction. And it's no accident–we're fortunate to have a lot going for us right now. We've put a lot of great resources and people in place to help us bring really good athletes here, and to help us build a strong team.
To tell you the truth, I am really happy with how all of our crews raced here. Obviously, we wouldn't have aspired to be in the third level final with the varsity, but there are six sophomores in the boat, and I think, in the end, they showed how fast they could go [the NU varsity won the third final in a time of 5:32.953]. I think we've put s strong foundation in place this year–we're really looking forward to the next couple years here.
RR: One of the real leaders of the squad seems to be former junior world champion Justin Jones (who stroked the NU varsity eight this season), is that right?
JP: I think that's fair to say. What's remarkable about those guys, that sophomore class, is that they came in here at a time when our team was really thin, and medaled at Sprints. They were kind of like the foundation of the team as freshmen, and this year they were building on that again. The first time those guys have been to the IRA was this year, and they're in the varsity eight event–they're just a little inexperienced, but Justin and that whole class have done a fantastic job in being the first layer of bricks in what we're trying to build. I think they're going to feel like they have a lot more guys behind them next season, and I think our younger guys and our great class we have coming in are really going to have some good guys to look up to.
It's kind of a perfect storm of good stuff for us at the moment, with the classes we have coming in, and the change in the freshman rule [the IRA Stewards have decided to change the rule regarding freshmen, allowing first-year students to race in varsity boats beginning next season]. I certainly value freshman rowing, but now it will be our choice in terms of where we put guys for our program. It gives us more flexibility in terms of how we want to run our team, and we want our athletes and coaches to be able to work together, and set lineups based on athletic ability, not age. So, we'll see what it all does, but we are certainly very encouraged by a lot of the things that have unfolded this year.
Thanks very much to Coach Pojednic. For more on the Northeastern program, please visit the official website of the Huskies.