On Sunday, April 3, the UC San Diego Men's varsity eight rowing team made history by becoming the first non-Division I and first San Diego-based collegiate boat to reach the finals of the Copley Cup, the most prestigious race at the annual San Diego Crew Classic. The Tritons finished fifth that day and occupying the seventh seat in their shell was junior Drew Lawyer, a newcomer out of Orange Coast College whose subtle effectiveness has not been lost on Head Coach Zach Johnson. "Drew brings a toughness and work ethic to the boat," said Johnson. "You can always count on him to execute the race plan." With the championship portion of the season looming, the Yorba Linda native took time to share his thoughts on the Crew Classic, the nature of his sport and what's on the horizon for his team this spring.
Q-How did it feel to be part of history at last weekend's San Diego Crew Classic?
LAWYER- It's an honor to be a part of this program. The coaching staff has done a great job building this team with great support from the university. I'm just really happy to be a part of this team and all the accomplishments that have come with it.
Q-Just making it to the grand final of the Copley Cup was a great accomplishment but how did you feel about the team's fifth place finish?
LAWYER- We executed the race plan really well on Saturday and made it to the grand finals like we planned. As for taking fifth in the final, no one is ever happy losing but we all understood that it is a credit to the program to have finally earned our spot in competition against crews of that caliber.
Q-Do you think all of the hoopla surrounding the team's qualifying in Saturday's heat helped or hurt the performance Sunday?
LAWYER-Working with the media was a new thing for the guys in boat, but we were pretty much able to stick to our schedule and maintain our focus.
Q-How long have you been rowing and what first got you interested in the sport? What were some of your earliest attempts like and how long did it take you to get proficient?
LAWYER- I actually tried out for the basketball team at Orange Coast College, and didn't end up making the team. I saw crew listed as one of the sports on the gym wall, having no idea about it, I was immediately intrigued. I went to the OCC website and they had a recruiting video that got me hooked. This is my third year competing and I am growing more passionate about the sport every day.
Q-What attracted you to UCSD and how much of a role did crew play in your decision?
LAWYER- When leaving OCC it came down to Wisconsin or UCSD. After visiting the school and knowing its high academic standards it was an easy decision to move down south. I would be lying if I didn't say that crew played a big part of my decision in coming to UCSD. The attitudes of the coaches and the guys on the team made me feel that I would be at home here. My instincts were right and I couldn't be happier with the school and program that I get to represent.
Q-You currently occupy the "7th seat," one of the closest to the stern, a position that is typically requires a mix of strength and technique. How would you describe your "responsibilities?"
LAWYER- Sitting seven seat is a big responsibility in the boat and it is nice to know that coach and the guys trust me to translate what our stroke seat is doing on port side to the starboard side. The way that I see it, it is my job to keep cranking on it and to set a power standard. I've been happy to sit at any seat with this crew, everyone is taking it upon themselves to work at a higher level, but seven seat sure does feel good.
Q-How do the tasks at the "bow" differ from those at the stern?
LAWYER-What it comes down to is the stern sets the pace and rhythm for the boat while the bow's main focus is to concentrate on applying consistent power and keeping the boat steady through the water.
Q-How much of crew is brute strength and how much is technique? Can a physically smaller crew prevail over a bigger rival?
LAWYER-In my experience it is about a 50:50 ratio. In 2008 the Wisconsin varsity eight was shorter and lighter than everyone else in the grand final, and they still left with gold medals. On the other hand Washington State won WIRA with big guys into a headwind.
Q-What type of training (pre-season and in-season) does the team do to prepare for the physical demands of your sport?
LAWYER- Over summer we take a slight break from rowing to keep our sanity. This involves running, weight lifting, rock climbing, cycling, basically anything that doesn't have to do with rowing. The fall season workouts that we do are geared more towards setting a foundation. A lot of endurance work on the ergs and on the water helps us build a base that we can later build a sprint off of. In the spring it is about translating the fitness to precision and speed. The workouts are shorter and anaerobic levels are pushed. Though the fall can seem long and draining the spring is characterized by a fierce burning pain.
Q-Can you describe what you're thinking and what your body feels like over the last quarter of a 2,000 m. race?
LAWYER- To do a race justice, you have to put the last 500 meters into perspective. I would describe the first three-quarters of the race as battling back and forth and executing the race plan at the peak of your physical ability. As for the last 500m you have now reached the point where your mind is not thinking clearly. Your lungs are on fire and lactic acid is building up because you're going into oxygen debt. Basically as your vision fades you hope that you don't pass out before you cross the finish line. For me the worst part comes when we stop rowing. My legs burn so much cutting them off is a serious contemplation.
Q-What other sport do you think is most like crew?
LAWYER- Cycling, Swimming and Speed Skating come to mind. I've recently come to see dog sledding as the most closely-related sport. The endurance and teamwork displayed while dragging a yelling overlord through extreme mental and physical conditions rings true.
Q-How important are group dynamics in a boat with eight rowers and a coxswain? What type of communication is taking place during a typical race?
LAWYER- The dynamics between the nine people in the boat are very essential to a crew's success. As for the communication aspect of the race the only person talking in the boat is the coxswain. The coxswain should essentially be an extension of the coach on the water. He is the only form of communication during a race within the boat.
Q-Can you describe some of the individual personalities in this year's varsity eight lineup?
LAWYER- As with every team there is a very diverse combination on this team. With this year the group of guys that we have is really close. Being a transfer I was kind of wary about the guys coming in, because it was a little intimidating coming in to this program, but it seemed to work itself out and I couldn't ask for more from these guys.
Q-What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
LAWYER- In my spare time I enjoy rock climbing, hiking, and cycling. Most recently I have developed a great interest in stock trading. Oh... yeah, I also enjoy the occasional long walks under the moonlight on the beach.
Q-You're a Biological Sciences major. What do you hope to do with that degree?
LAWYER- I hope to pursue a career in Physical Therapy with an emphasis in sports therapy.
Q-The "championship" portion of the season starts in about two weeks at the SIRA Championships in Tennessee. What does the team want to accomplish before the season's over?
LAWYER- First and foremost our most immediate goal is to win SIRA (Southern conference) and WIRA (Western conference). Both which are qualifying races for IRA's. The IRA's have been the main focus in our program this year and we hope to finish as high as we can in competition with some of the best crews in the nation.
Q-At the Crew Classic, you were sporting a pretty sweet handlebar mustache. It's gone now but what was behind its appearance last week and are we likely to see it again in the future?LAWYER- I thought at the beginning of the school year I should start mustache March early. The agreement with the team was that if we made the grand final I would style it into the "epicness" that was presented at Crew Classic. The liklihood that it will be returning next year is to be determined in the upcoming months.
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