Before they were Quakers, they competed on the world’s biggest stages.
Now serving as Penn lightweight rowing’s head and assistant coaches, Colin Farrell and Tyler Nase competed and coached at the highest level, with multiple trips to the World Championships and even one to the Olympics.
After graduating from Cornell with a degree in psychology, Farrell is now Penn's head coach and made the decision to continue his rowing career after being invited to try out for the United States National Team.
“It was a really cool experience to be able to represent your country,” Farrell said. “A lot of it for me was seeing how far I could go."
The transition from college to the national team certainly required a shift in mindset from Farrell. Unlike in college, there was no guarantee he would maintain his spot on the team, but he found a way to overcome the challenge.
“Training is really a full-time thing, 24/7, 365. You’re training twice a day, three times a day, all year long,” Farrell said. “You don’t have to go to school, which is nice, but it’s just really intense. In our sport, you have to put in a lot of hours to get ready for the race.”
Farrell’s hard work and dedication earned him a spot on the team and propelled him to three trips to the Rowing World Championships in 2006, 2007, and 2008. In his last stint at Worlds, Farrell earned himself gold in the lightweight eights event.
“It was a dream come true and a really big honor,” Farrell said.
After deciding to step away from behind the oar following his many success-filled years, Farrell took up coaching for the U-23 Lightweight National Team.
In 2015, Farrell steered the lightweight fours to the A Final at the World Championships, marking the best finish for the boat since 2000.
Nase, now a Penn assistant coach, was on Farrell’s U-23 team in 2011 and 2012, where he gained experience internationally. But the two men had actually crossed paths much earlier, before Farrell had even started coaching.
In 2008, the Junior and Senior World Championships both took place in Linz, Austria, so while Farrell took home gold for the US, Nase secured a third-place finish while looking up at the man he would eventually partner with at Penn.
A part of Farrell and Nase’s experiences on the national team was traveling all over the world and experiencing different cultures.
Farrell's time on the international circuit revolved around Europe. The World Championships took him to London, Munich, and Linz.
“I also went to Lucerne in Switzerland,” Farrell said. “Some people call it the best race course in the world.”
Nase got the opportunity to travel a little farther south than his old coach.
After graduating from Princeton, Nase moved on from the U-23 boat and made the US Men's National Team, earning a silver medal at the 2013 World Cup and a bronze in 2016.
This momentum drove Nase and the US to Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympics.
“I spent the greater part of eight years trying to pursue that, and for it all to come to fruition was really cool,” he said.
After finishing second in the preliminaries and qualifying for one of the two semifinals, the four Americans battled hard but ultimately came up just a few seconds short from a spot in the finals.
“We were a touch off the start and came up short of our goal,” Nase said. “It was a very high moment and also a very surreal moment where you say to yourself, ‘Wow, I spent the greater part of this time [training for the event], but it all came down to a couple seconds.’”
After 2016, the lightweight fours event was dropped from the Olympic slate, leaving Nase unsure of what to do next.
“My life was in limbo for a little bit,” Nase said. “Coaching was the obvious route.”
He didn’t have to look very far when he found out there was an opening on Penn’s lightweight rowing staff that would put him right next to his former coach. Now, Farrell and Nase try to draw on the lessons from their time competing and teach them to a new generation of rowers.
“It’s all been one continual life lesson,” Farrell said. “I try to pass on as much experience to my guys as possible.”
In Farrell and Nase’s first year together, the Quakers earned bronze at the Eastern Association of Rowing Colleges Sprints and finished fourth at the IRA National Championship Regatta. These accomplishments highlighted the already established bond between the two coaches, one that will continue for years to come.