Colin Truex completed his first campaign in charge of the UC San Diego women's crew earlier this month after five seasons with the men's program. To conclude a banner debut year, the native of Wethersfield, Conn., directed his Tritons to three Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association (WIRA) medals and their first NCAA Division II Championships berth since 2008. "Coach Truex is both a top recruiter and a great coach," remarked UCSD men's crew head coach Zach Johnson, who initially hired Truex as his assistant on the men's side in 2007. "He helped bring our (men's) program to the next level. Coach Truex was an integral part of our success that included wins at the San Diego Crew Classic and WIRA Championship Regatta in 2009, and (Intercollegiate Rowing Association) national championship invitations in 2009 and 2011. I am extremely excited for him to be strengthening our women's program into a national contender in Division II."
With the 2012-13 college season now in the rear-view mirror, Truex is our first guest this summer on Triton Q&A.
Q: In just your first season at the helm, the Triton Varsity 8 boat placed third at the NCAA Division II Championships in Indianapolis, Ind., upsetting regional rival Western Washington in back-to-back races. Did you expect that kind of a performance from your squad so soon? General review of the year?
TRUEX: I knew they had it in them. I was impressed with the level of talent that was here when we started in the fall. It was just a matter of getting the team to step up their intensity and really buy into the workouts. We all really started believing in ourselves after WIRAs when we raced Western Washington really tight (the Varsity 8 edged by a mere .08 seconds). Western had always been so far in front us, so for us to be so close, really showed the team that their hard work was paying off. We just took the next step at NCAAs and really had our best racing of the season. That is what you strive for all year, to perform your best at the championships. And we did!
Q: We are admittedly only in June, just a couple of weeks removed from the past academic year, but look ahead to next season for us a bit. You lose some valuable seniors. How do you hope to build on this year's success, and what will it take to reach the top of the Division II mountain?
TRUEX: We are definitely losing some key people. The seniors that are departing were strong, spirited, tenacious and ultimately irreplaceable. However, aside from those seniors, we raced pretty young in 2012-13. We had mostly sophomores and freshmen filling out the Varsity 8, which means the future looks pretty bright. For us to reach the top of the mountain, it is going to take a lot individual improvement in both the level of fitness and in our technique. I know we can do it!
Q: What kinds of qualities are you looking for in potential rowers who will find success in your program? How about specifically at the coxswain position?
TRUEX: We are pretty straightforward when it comes to building the roster. We want tough, team-minded, hard workers who can handle the demands of being a student and a rower at UCSD. Basically, we just want athletes - people who enjoy training and competing. UCSD is a very unique and challenging school, and I believe it takes a special person to thrive here. For the coxswain position, we are really looking for intelligent, articulate and outspoken leader-types.
Q: You were credited with developing a plan during your five seasons with the Triton men's crew prior to taking charge of the women, whereby student-athletes are now actually being recruited rather than solely relying on walk-ons. You had 48 student-athletes on your 2012-13 women's roster. How do you build up to a number like that? What's the general make-up of your roster these days?
TRUEX: Successful recruiting is just a function of the time put in and the consistency of your message. Despite not having scholarships, UCSD is a great place to recruit to because of the academic reputation, the success of our athletic department, and of course, our location. I am proud to talk about UCSD, especially to parents, and I feel that it comes across as genuine, not a sales pitch. My team currently is about half recruited, half walk-on, but I expect it to become more heavily recruited over the coming years.
Q: Last year was of course an Olympic one with the London Games that saw incredible, capacity crowds on hand each day at Eton Dorney for rowing. You're someone who has spent time in London as a student abroad. Your thoughts on the Olympic races, the passion that the British people have for rowing, and your memories of competing there?
TRUEX: I loved my time in London! I rowed in London for a semester and then traveled back after I graduated to compete in the Henley Royal Regatta. I experienced a wonderful blend of tradition, formality and British high society at the Henley, but also the less intense and more social setting of the British club rowing scene. I met and rowed with some fantastic people and had some great times at the post-practice pub crawls. Rowing is just more interwoven into British athletic and social life than it is here in the States. Some of their greatest sporting legends and heroes are rowers, which is probably why attendance was so high at Eton.
Q: Within the States, you've lived in your native Connecticut, Maine, Ohio, and now the last decade or so here in San Diego. What are some of the pros and cons you've experienced between these different segments of the country?
TRUEX: I am and probably always will be a New Englander at heart. Something about the seasons, the passage of time, and the sense of history. It has always been a little hard for me out here when things are always the same. With that said, it is hard to complain about San Diego. Rowing is an outdoor sport and it is always rowing weather here. My time in Maine taught me what a true winter is like and it is probably no coincidence that I kept searching for warming climates after I graduated. My time in Ohio was enjoyable. I met some great people, but the Midwest wasn’t for me. Despite my love for New England, San Diego has been my home for a while now and will continue to be so for years to come. It is a great place to raise a family!
Q: When and how did you first get started in rowing? Did you compete in any other sports growing up?
TRUEX: I played a lot of sports growing up. Baseball, soccer, track, basketball, and even golf. I was never exposed to rowing and had never even heard of it before I got to college. My origin story is pretty much like everyone else’s in the rowing world. Someone handed me a flyer during the first week of school and suggested that I come to the meeting. I went, met some great guys, and it was on from there. What’s funny about the whole thing is that I almost skipped the rowing meeting to go to the woodsman team meeting, which was at the same time. The woodsmen are the guys that throw axes and climb trees for time. Kind of a Maine thing. (Editor's Note: Must be.) That seemed pretty cool to me at the time, but obviously I am very glad that I chose the rowing meeting. I am guessing things would be quite different now if I hadn’t.
Q: Crew must present a unique challenge in terms of travel. Both you and the men's program routinely compete on the opposite coast at least once each year. How do you and Coach Johnson deal with transporting your boats those distances?
TRUEX: It just becomes part of your job. You plan for it, you know it's coming, and you know what to expect. Don’t get me wrong. It is still awful and it takes an agonizingly long time, but it comes with the territory. Fortunately, this past spring I was able to make other arrangements for our far away races which made life a lot easier.
Q: You and your wife, Jenny, have a young son, Griffin. How has being first-time parents gone so far?
TRUEX: Griffin just turned two a couple of weeks ago and he is just the best. He wakes us up every morning with a smile and the day just gets better from there. We love being parents and we are actually expecting our second child, a boy, at the end of July. It will be crazy with two of them but I am really looking forward to it.
Q: Will you encourage him to row?
TRUEX: He will obviously be exposed to rowing at a young age but I want him to come to rowing on his own. Rowing is not the kind of sport you can dabble in. You either are into it all the way, or you are not.
Q: What are some of your hobbies and interests outside of the sport?
TRUEX: Being a parent of a toddler and soon to be toddlers, there isn’t a whole lot of time for hobbies. I still get out and run every now and then, and I’ll bike to the boathouse once in a while. But other than that, most spare moments are spent chasing after Griffin. He likes to ‘run fast’ and is always on the move. I imagine in a couple of years we will get back into things like camping and traveling, which we used to do a lot back in our child-free days. We do enjoy going to Padres games and just being outside as a family. I also grow my own vegetables.
Q: Any plans for you and the family this summer?
TRUEX: We are hoping to take a trip to the East Coast to see my family after baby No. 2 is out. But that’s about it!
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