Pressure on JU men at Hooch regatta
The JU men have had a lot of success at the Head of the Hooch regatta.
The JU men have had a lot of success at the Head of the Hooch regatta.
With the end of the fall season around the bend, the Jacksonville University men’s rowing team travels to the prestigious Head of the Hooch Regatta this weekend in Chattanooga, Tenn.

The men, whose fall efforts end next weekend at the FIRA Fall Classic in Fellsmere, Fla., will send six boats into three divisions in the second largest regatta in the country.

Coach Jim Mitchell, who is going back to his rowing roots this weekend, said he has seen strides of improvement from his team this fall and the rowers had a successful first outing in the First Coast Head Race.

“The focus on fitness and technical improvements this fall has been strong,’’ Mitchell said. “It’s been enjoyable to see the guys so focused on becoming better oarsmen. Now we have a chance to put it to a test and I am confident that we will race hard.”

Mitchell will have a pair of boats in the Men’s Novice 8 event on the 5,000-meter course that ends in downtown Chattanooga.

Coxswain David Waugh will be aboard Micasa with Matt Thomas, Chase Rowe, Jacob Strauss, Jeremy Sobiech, Drew Allen, Tim Easterling, Andrew Bechtold and Alex Borrelli for the 11:50 a.m. start Saturday.

Waugh’s peer, Brandon Krouppa will join Stephen Marra, Danny O’Connor, Tyler Vivi, Jacob Motes, Chris Morgan, Shawn Macklefresh, Josh Holt and Carlos Garcia on the second entry, in the Bill and Eloise Gay.

Two more JU craft, the King and the “Tiger” Tim Tyler, will get under way at 12:20 p.m. in the Men’s Championship 8 -- the premier race of the regatta.

Andrew Soloway will lead the King with Scott DelVecchio, Mick Mayer, Greg VanOekel, Bernard Vingilis, Parker Lawler, Brian Cosmillo, Andre Kleijn and Matt Outlaw aboard.

Coxswain Tom Richards will be aboard the “Tiger” Tim Tyler with Chris Ottie, Sean Carney, Preston Weinard, Shane Kennedy, Troy Troupe, Jared Low, Brian Tye and Jesse Brantman.

Because of past success, Mitchell said there is a little pressure on the his crews.

“We have won the Men’s Championship 8 and the Men’s Novice 8 each of the last two years. We have a little pressure on us to three-peat in each of these events.”

The Men’s Championship 4 is slated for a 5 p.m. start and the Dolphins will again be represented by a pair of boats.

Richards, Lawler, Mayer, Kleijn and Outlaw will man the EM4 while Ben Hayes, Sobiech, Matt Thomas, Chase Row and Jacob Strauss will be aboard the EL4.

“The Head of the Hooch is one of my favorite regattas, and Chattanooga is where I went to college and first learned to row, Mitchell said. “I have been to this regatta nearly every year since 1990, as a rower and/or coach, so I look forward to going to a great regatta in a great city. This is a very sentimental regatta for me personally.”

The regatta, which began in 1981, is the second largest regatta in the country (The Head of the Charles in Cambridge, Mass., is the largest) and more than 1,600 boats are expected to compete in high school, college and masters divisions.

The Hooch began as The Head of the Chattahoochee in Roswell, Ga., and was initiated by the Atlanta Rowing Club. The first regatta had 105 boats.

The race was moved to the Olympic rowing venue in Gainesville, Ga., in 1997 and found its current home in Chattanooga in 2005.

-- Jim Nasella