March 30, 2011
Returning to the waters where they made Torero history will be the majority of the members of that 1986 varsity eight team, who will be competing for the Coach Del Beekley Volunteer Cup in the Master's C event at 2:10 p.m. on Sunday, April 3rd in this year's Crew Classic, which annually features many of the nation's top junior, collegiate, and master's competition in a two-day, 90-race event on San Diego's Mission Bay.
Most of the 1986 team, which consisted of Suzy Duyn, Neal Stehly, Treak Tasker, Mike Gerhart, Mike Weber, Brett O'Keefe, Will Creagan, Jamie Bea and Erik Henrion, have reunited with the help of Facebook and trained both individually and together over the past six months to compete in this weekend's event. The bond that these teammates had has helped keep the team intact more than two decades after graduating from USD.
"Winning the Cal Cup at the Crew Classic was one of the most amazing experiences of my life," commented Stehly, who lives in Carlsbad with his wife and three kids and is the vice president of the Employee Benefits Division of Marrs, Maddocks & Associates Insurance Agency. "The comradery that was built with my teammates was second to none."
"All I know is that these men are a special group," said Len Velez, who has served as the USD Alumni team coxswain in various races throughout the past decade. "They are professionals, family men, driven to succeed and balance family, work, and life. Most of all, they are men of faith and love life. I look up to them as my older brothers and are friends for life."
The success that the 1986 team had was a product of many factors that came together to make USD history. Like any great team in any sport, the 1986 Toreros combined an intense work ethic with passion for the sport and sound guidance from the coaching staff to ultimately hoist the Cup.
"We had a great coach in Joe Flohr, we were rowing well and working hard every minute of practice," said Bea, who was the 2010 World Rowing Champion in the Master's single scull in his age group. "We were winning a lot of races and just believing in ourselves after second-place finishes in '84 and '85."
"It starts with a group of extremely good athletes throughout the program," added Stehly, who was one of seven siblings to row at USD. "The varsity eight we ended up with were not the only excellent rowers. The competition to make the varsity eight was fierce and it made us extremely fast."
"There is something visceral about rowing that keeps an oarsman rowing," said Gerhart, who competed with the Atlanta Rowing Club during graduate school at Georgia State University and participated in the prestigious Head of the Charles race in Boston, Mass. following his USD rowing career. "It is amazing to know that all eight of us who are in our mid-to-late 40s are physically capable of competing at a high level. We have embraced the challenge and committed to each other to put ourselves through a grueling 16-week training program that has demanded once again self-sacrifice and physical suffering on behalf of the team."
The training program followed by the members of the team was designed to get them back in shape to compete at this year's Classic. Despite their passion for rowing, there were some members of the team who were understandably hesitant about the prospects of such an intensive workout regime.
"I believe I was the last person to commit to doing this," admitted O'Keefe. "I mean, it's not like competing at race pace for 2,000 meters is a recreational undertaking to be taken lightly. You have to prepare. However, after seeing Will, Jaime and Mike very fit at last year's event, I knew we had to do this. The feeling was mutual and the motivation was very high from the outset. Over time our cardio, strength and times on the machines improved. Some of us had to buy new clothes."
"I had not been on the water or that blasted rowing machine since 1986," said Tasker, who owns a commercial mortgage banking company in Tulsa, Okla., where he has lived for the past 15 years with his wife, Mary Jo, whom he met at USD, and their three sons. "But some of the boys have and they talked to the rest of us about a reunion row. The program got progressively harder each week, but everyone bought into it and the race was on to get in rowing shape. Everyone's times improved week after week as everyone posted via email. Some of us truly had a long way to come, but the encouragement never ceased and no one fell behind."
Despite the challenges in front of them, the team committed themselves to their goal of racing in top shape in this weekend's Classic. Never a team to put in a half-hearted effort, the 1986 squad aims to mark its 25th anniversary the same way it did then: by winning. It is clear that the feeling of accomplishment gained from the Cal Cup victory in 1986 has been a significant motivator in pushing the team back into competition mode.
"I think that we shared deep commitments to being the best we could be and we were successful in achieving a goal together," commented O'Keefe. "I think we all know there is something deeply rewarding about hard work. It produces results. I think that's what we enjoy most."
"I have often wished I could have bottled up some of the feelings and emotions from that day to take little sips of throughout my life," remarked Creagan, who took fourth place in the men's Master's World Championships in Canada in September 2010 with Bea. "But I guess in one sense we've all done that anyway. It gave us the taste of true success in competition at the Division I college level, and once you've had that success it keeps you inspired for life. When I saw the USD women win it last year, I couldn't help but shed tears even though I didn't know any of the girls personally, because I knew without a shadow of a doubt that they would remember that day and that experience of winning a major regatta for the rest of their lives."
Bringing the Cal Cup home to USD for the first time instilled a sense of pride for the members of that team. That pride is what keeps them involved in the Torero rowing program today, with all the members doing something large or small to help USD rowing over the years since they left. Stehly, for instance, was instrumental in raising funds for the 2008 dedication of a new rowing shell named in honor of Karen Cosgrove, the late wife of former USD Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and long-time rowing supporter Tom Cosgrove. The members of the 1986 team also had the opportunity to scrimmage against the current USD varsity team this past January, an experience that highlights the connection of the teams generations apart.
"This adventure of the 1986 team would never be possible were it not for the unwavering support of the rowing program and the USD athletic department," said Gerhart. "The current crews and coaching staff have been incredible in their support and encouragement. While I have moved on from USD, USD rowing has never left me. I owe a lot of my personal and professional success to the USD rowing program. I will always be an active supporter of USD rowing. It is a program that builds character and prepares a young oarsman/oarswoman for the challenges of life beyond the campus."
With their legacy already established in USD rowing history, the members of the 1986 team will set out on Mission Bay Sunday afternoon to accomplish new goals and, in the process, relive the feeling of glory they experienced 25 years ago.
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The Toreros take on Valparaiso at home Saturday afternoon
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After a win at Gonzaga the Toreros take on BYU in the Torero Stadium
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Toreros put on skills clinic for local children
Meet the Toreros: Allyson Eylers
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No. 6 Toreros battle No. 11 BYU for the first place spot in conference
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Toreros beat Dayton 34-22
Volleyball Plays USF for First WCC Play
Kristen Gengenbacher & Kaity Edwards talk about excitement for WCC play
USD Hosts Dayton in PFL Opener
Co-Captain Brian Riley & Coach Lindsey talk about the challenges of the Saturday's game
Volleyball Highlights from Wins Over UCSB and LBSU
Volleyball up to no. 7 after dominant weekend
Meet The Toreros: Ana Ramos
Freshman guard from Portugal
Cross Country Shows Speed on Home Course
The women finished second overall & the men finished fourth overall
Meet the Toreros: Kaity Edwards
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Second Home Tournament Preview
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Home Cross Country Race Preview
Head Coach Guarino and seniors Benster & Smith talk about the new team
Volleyball Highlights from Home Tournament Sweep
Volleyball beats UCI, CU and UCLA at their first home tournament
Sixth Man Night
Head Coach Smith talks about upcoming annual fundraiser
Volleyball's First Home Tournament of the Season
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Football Plays Cal Poly After 27-0 Opening Week Win
Giorgi and Lindsey recap game against WNM and preview Cal Poly
Men's Soccer Home Opener Preview
Price & McFadden preview UCD & Sac State
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Western New Mexico Preview
Jamal Agnew & Anthony Lawrence break down WNMU.
USD vs. Stanford Volleyball UPSET
Torero women win 3 of 5 sets against #11 Stanford.
Meet the Toreros: Isaiah Pineiro
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Men's Soccer Kicks Off Season In NC
Coach McFadden & Michael Turner Preview Matches vs Duke & Elon.
Softball Golf Tournament Promo
September 17th at Bernardo Heights CC.
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Training Camp Update
Team prepares for Saturday scrimmage.
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Meet the Toreros: Mark Carbone
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Meet the Toreros: Madison Pollock
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Toreros host soccer skills clinic at Linda Vista Elementary.
Meet the Toreros: Juwan Gray
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Toreros Open Training Camp
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Meet the Toreros: Nassir Barrino
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Jordan Angus - Male Torero of the Year
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San Diego faces Vanderbilt in first round
2016 Celebration of Excellence
Behind the Scenes at the COE
Toreros Participate in Linda Vista Parade
Toreros Participate in Linda Vista Parade
Men's Tennis senior Day
The Toreros host LMU and Pepperdine Saturday and Sunday
Softball WCC Preview
The Toreros host Saint Mary's Saturday and Sunday
2016 San Diego Crew Classic
The Toreros show speed against the nation's top crews
The Torero Baseball Experience
Kris Bryant & Brian Matusz reflect on their time at USD
MBB Senior Night
Jito Kok and Duda Sanadze prepare for the final home game
USD Baseball Season Preview
Season starts at No. 3 Vanderbilt February 19
USD Softball Season Preview
Season starts February 12
USD travels to No. 9 UCLA Friday
Toreros Host Kentucky Saturday
USD looks to defend home court against No. 22 Kentucky
Toreros Host Pepperdine & LMU
USD returns home after four-game road trip
Toreros Team Up with PYBL
Men's Basketball hosts annual clinic for Challenged Division
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USD opens at home vs UC Irvine and UCSD Saturday
Preview of USD women's basketball WCC opener vs. BYU.
City Championship Highlights
Relive the Toreros' Upset over SDSU at Petco Park
Toreros to Host Hope International
The 9-1 Toreros will host Hope International in their final game before WCC play
Toreros Stun Aztecs at Petco
Postgame reaction and press conferences
Toreros Return Home
USD will host Bethesda before Sunday's City Championship at Petco Park
Men's Basketball Season Tickets
Starting as Low as $99
Pono Keni and Coach Lindsey talk about Saturday's Senior Day game against Butler
Coach Fisher and forward Maya Hood talk about Tuesday's home-opener against CSUN
Coach Smith and Brett Bailey preview the season opener at USC
Jonah Hodges and Dale Lindsey talk about Jonah's return and preview Davidson game
San Diego Fall Classic Preview
Coach Dagman previews the San Diego Fall Classic
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USD Men's Basketball - The Origins (1955-1973)
A Glance at the Beginnings of Torero Hoops
Coach Lindsey and Jeff Starr preview Campbell
Coach Lindsey and Jereke Armstrong talk about the season so far
WCC Media Day
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Dale Lindsey and Anthony Lawrence on USD's 45-14 win
Anthony Lawrence and Coach Lindsey preview game vs. Warner
Torero Community Service
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Men's Basketball Camp Update
Kok and Carter talk about the upcoming season
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Pack the Stadium Night
ITA All-American's Preview
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Toreros First True Road Game of 2015
CSUN and UCSB Preview
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Both Squads Finish Second
Toreros Take on Cross-town Rival
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Previewing Western New Mexico
Volleyball Tournament Preview
A preview of the USD Tournament
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Previewing No. 16 Cal
Training Camp Update
Coach Lindsey Recaps the First Two Weeks
2015 WSOC Preview
A brief preview of the 2015 Toreros.