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Years in the Making: Chuck Crawford, the 2015 Fan’s Choice Collegiate Coach

by Sarah Marshall, smarshall@usrowing.org | Nov 16, 2015
In Delaware’s first official race of the year in early April, the Blue Hens kicked off head coach Chuck Crawford’s 20th anniversary with the program in style. For the first time in the school’s history, the crews in blue and yellow walked away with victories over Harvard University in the lightweight eight and second varsity eight races.
In the University of Delaware’s first official race of the year, the Blue Hens kicked off head coach Chuck Crawford’s 20th anniversary in style.

For the first time in the school’s history, the crews in blue and yellow walked away withChuck-Crawford2 copy victories over Harvard University in the lightweight eight and second varsity eight races.

“We aren’t able to recruit international students or kids coming out of high school with really terrific erg scores because we are a club program,” said Crawford. “That made the victory a lot more exciting because we won with pure grit and desire.”

Crawford, the 2015 Fan’s Choice Collegiate Coach of the Year award winner, created both Delaware's men's and women’s programs in 1991 and served as the head coach of both for five years before taking a brief hiatus. He eventually returned to the Blue Hens in 2000, where he has been at the helm of the men’s program ever since.

After his successful 2015 spring season, his crews faced an uphill battle with narrow losses and great victories along the way.

“After our great race against Harvard, we went on to battle MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). While they won that first race by the closest of margins, we were able to return the favor at Dad Vails, which was a nice revenge match for us.”

The lightweight eight went on to claim the top title at this year’s Dad Vail Regatta as well as the novice four. Crawford's varsity heavy weight eight claimed the top spot in the petite final while both the novice heavy and lightweight claimed silver in their races. However, it was the performance of his lightweight crew that really stuck out to Crawford as he reviewed his 2015 sprint-racing season.

“Despite the losses, the victories are still quite the feather in these boys hats. Coming from a club program and racing against the top lightweight crews in the country is certainly a way to distinguish themselves as an elite lightweight program. I would argue that they are probably the best lightweight club program in the country.”

The Blue Hens also saw success on the international scale this year as current and former athletes represented the university at the world rowing championships.

In Plovdiv, Bulgaria, the lightweight men's quadruple sculls lineup of current Delaware lightweights Corey Brown, Andrew Kershaw, Reid Cucci and Michael Senf finished eighth at the 2015 World Rowing Under 23 Championships.

At this year’s Pan American Games, former Blue Hen and 2016 Olympic hopeful, Colin Ethridge brought home silver in the lightweight double sculls and would go on to finish fifth in the lightweight quadruple sculls at the 2015 World Rowing Championships in Aiguebelette, France.

1393513_580389508676938_817245923_n[1][3]Crawford, a gold-medalist in the lightweight men's eight at the 1972 World Rowing Championships and former national team coach, knows that this sort of alumni success is an important part of setting the bar high for his club team.

“We play the alumni card very often. Besides Colin, we have had other alums who have come through the program and performed at the elite level. We have some men who have done very well on the international level, and as a result of that, the undergrads look up at the alums and try to work on improving their own skills. They know we have records to try to break, and they need to earn their place in Blue Hen history.

"All these things are fun, but also challenging, because it pushes the guys. Then in turn, they push each other as they try to reach back and catch up with these other record holders.”

USRowing’s Fan’s Choice Awards embodies excellence in rowing by showcasing top performances over the current year. Crawford and his fellow winners were nominated by and voted for based on their contributions to the sport and achievements on the water. All will be honored at the fifth-annual Golden Oars Awards Dinner on Thursday, Nov. 19 at the New York Athletic Club in New York City.
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