2012-05-03 / News

Despite having zero experience, islander makes college crew team

Sam Baines makes the Marist College freshman rowing team as a walk-on

Sam Baines (second from left) made the freshmen crew team at Marist College in just his first season of competitive rowing. His coach said that as a walk-on, “Sam has worked very hard to get himself in the freshman eight.” Sam Baines (second from left) made the freshmen crew team at Marist College in just his first season of competitive rowing. His coach said that as a walk-on, “Sam has worked very hard to get himself in the freshman eight.” Jamestowner Sam Baines has earned a spot on the 2012 Marist College men’s crew team – even though he has never rowed before.

Baines, 20, said he went out for the men’s novice rowing team as a walk-on.

According to coach Matt Lavin, the majority of walk-ons aren’t with the team when the season starts. “We had 20 to 25 walk-ons. We’re down to about six or seven,” he said.

Lavin said that potential rowers drop out after a few weeks, when they realize that practices are too much work. “A lot of people are not up to the commitment,” he said, “or they don’t have the passion for it.”

But according to his coach, Baines had both the passion and the persistence.

Baines is in his sophomore year at Marist, Lavin said, but he had to go out for the freshman team because he’s a first-year rower.

Baines didn’t try out for crew last year because he wasn’t on the Poughkeepsie, N.Y., campus. During his first year at Marist, he enrolled in the school’s Freshman Florence Experience and spent the year in Italy.

Baines, the son of Alan and Sarah

Baines, moved to Jamestown with his parents and older sister 19 years ago. He went to both Jamestown schools and graduated from North Kingstown High School. He is studying international business in the hopes his career will involve lots of travel and work in foreign countries, he said.

In Italy, he lived in the center of Florence, close to the Duomo, the cathedral church, he said. Marist College has a campus in Florence, and he spent four days a week in classes there, and three days a week traveling and seeing the sights. He visited Florence’s Uffizi Gallery and took day trips around Tuscany. He also took trips to Rome and the wine country.

He hopes to study abroad again, probably in Germany, but this year, he wanted to become involved in the New York campus life and opted for the rowing team.

“As a walk-on, Sam has worked very hard to get himself in the freshmen eight, and he has excelled there,” Lavin said.

Lavin went on to explain each boat carries nine people – eight oarsmen and the coxswain. The coxswain steers and calls out the commands. Baines sits in the twoseat.

Baines raced in one of the two freshman boats on Lake Mercer in West Windsor, N.J., last weekend, as Marist College won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference rowing championship. The entire team – freshman and varsity combined – racked up the most points at the April 28 meet and won the trophy, Lavin said.

Official results showed Marist, with 156 points, won by withstanding a challenge from Jacksonville University, which came in second with 143 points. Marist isn’t a stranger to winning – the team has won the men’s rowing title 14 times.

According to Lavin, Marist’s traditional rivals are usually the other New York area schools, but this year Boston College has been a contender.

“This year, we’ve had some good racing with Boston College,” he said. The two schools met three times. Boston College won twice. And Jacksonville – who is new to the conference this season – will also be a team to look out for, said Lavin.

Baines had played tennis and soccer at North Kingstown and surprised his family when he announced last summer he was going out for crew.

He jumped in a dinghy and over the summer taught himself rowing, said his mother, Sarah, who sits on the School Committee.

“I was a bit surprised,” she said, “but he’s always been a very determined athlete.”

Marist had a reputation for good rowing teams. Sam says that because the campus is right on the Hudson River, rowing is the “big thing.”

Baines admitted that he didn’t know much about rowing or racing when he decided to go out for the team. But he isn’t the only one on the freshman team like that. He said that eight to 10 kids with rowing experience are recruited for the lower crew team, but the rest of the roster is filled up with beginners.

Baines practiced hard to improve, he said. The freshman team only had one race in the fall. The second race was cancelled due to the freak October storm. From December until February, the rowing team moved indoors and practiced on rowing machines. He worked on the machines 90 minutes a day, he said, and the effort paid off.

“I moved up into the first freshman boat,” he said. Since the season started, Baines has gotten into more races.

“We’ve had one a week since spring break,” he said. “We’re doing well.”

Marist will compete for the Eastern College Athletic Conference Championships in Worcester, Mass., later this month.

“It’s very exciting,” Sam said. So what does it feel like to continuously row for 2,000 meters, which lasts about 6 1/2 minutes? “It’s very nerve-wracking. Very adrenalin pumping.”

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