To the unknowing passersby, the wet heat and high pitched buzzing emanating from the stairwell was indicative of a boiler room on overdrive. It was the dead of winter, so who would think twice about the equipment working hard to heat the many courts and locker rooms where Penn athletes trained. On a typical weekday morning, our bodies would raise the temperature in the concrete basement of the Hutchinson Gymnasium from a breezy 64 F to the upper 80s and above.
This was our home. And our hell. It was everything we wanted and everything we despised. This is where we trained, often twice a day, pushing our minds and our bodies to the brink of failure all for the upcoming spring season.
Penn had a rough few years, going from one of the top crews in the country to barely managing to stay afloat. Greg Myhr had stepped up to the challenge of rebuilding a program that once churned out greatness. And that is what he spent his short tenure doing.
By the time we were upperclassmen, we, the class of 2013, knew we weren’t going to be another one of those historic Penn crews that won race after race and took the national championship by storm; although we certainly wished we were. At the very least we wanted some credit for our work. To be remembered by future generations of Penn oarsmen for bringing our program from the depths into the shallows so that they might scratch the surface and reach the medal stand.
“Frankly, I don’t want them to.” Those were the chilling words Coach Myhr uttered to us one winter’s morning in the basement of that gymnasium. They hung in the air for a few moments as their meaning sunk in. Coach Myhr had a different plan. He didn’t want future oarsmen to have any idea from whence they came, only where they were to be. He wanted champions to walk into the boathouse each and every day. He wanted champions that believed they were champions — winning was not an option, it was just what Penn oarsmen did.
Coach Myhr will have his wish. Future classes will never truly know what we as oarsmen did to keep this program afloat. No one will notice the gaps in the years Penn fell short of greatness — the lack of “Pennsylvania” engraved on trophies over the past decade or the lack of photographs of championship boats will simply be overlooked. And we accept that. We were not destined to be champions. But that’s not to say our work was all for naught. We know we rowed for a reason. We rowed to build the foundation for the next dynasty. We worked to set the stage for champions to come. And we look forward to the day those champions arise.
The sad truth is, however, no one will ever know what coach Greg Myhr did either. Coach Myhr didn’t win any championships. He did not amass a collection of trophies to fill the shelves in the boathouse. Years from now a lone portrait hanging in the Madeira Shell House may be all that commemorates Coach Myhr’s six years as head coach in the program’s long history. But we will remember. All of us who rowed for Penn, who rowed for Greg Myhr, will remember what he did for us and our program. Coach Myhr redefined what it meant to work hard. He elevated the standard for what it meant to be strong, to be fast — what it meant to push ourselves. Coach Myhr built up our team and pulled in more athletes each year. More rowers meant more competition, and more competition meant faster squads. Coach Myhr sent athletes onto new and greater challenges — he sent two men to Cambridge to represent the light blue in the annual Oxford vs. Cambridge Boat Race, and three others to represent the United States at the Under-23 World Rowing Championships.
We will remember how Coach Myhr turned us into a threat to our competition. How he made us hold our heads high. And how he made us proud to row for Penn and to be a part of something greater.
Thank you Coach for all you have done for us and for this program. You will be sorely missed. We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.
On behalf of the Penn Heavyweight Class of 2013Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.