July 3, 2013
WASHINGTON - Georgetown University rising sophomore men's rower Graham Miller (Greenwich, Conn./Brunswick) first started rowing in high school. He wanted to pursue the sport as a collegian, hoping to use the combination of athletics and academics to balance his schedule. Miller did just that as a freshman and became one of the team's top oarsmen in the process.
Miller was the only freshman member of the Hoyas men's varsity eight squad traveled to Sacramento, Calif. last month for the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) National Championships.
He began rowing when he entered the Brunswick School and competed on the team for three years. "My passion for rowing began in 2008 when I was a freshman," he explained. "I was looking for athletic and academic ways to develop my character and I thought that rowing embodied the principles of "courage, honor and truth" (his school's motto).
"Rowing became a major part of my life when I realized how physically and spiritually rewarding it was. Success in rowing completely depends on how much time and effort you are willing to devote. For me, rowing became a source of hard work, mental toughness and commitment."
It was that commitment to his sport that led Miller to the rowing team when he enrolled on the Hilltop. "I asked for a greater challenge and Georgetown answered," he said. "I knew that if I participated in a collegiate sport, my schedule would be more balanced, my priorities and values would remain genuine and my desire for self-improvement would be achieved. Rowing for Georgetown is, and will continue to be, the highlight of my rowing career."
Miller said that the Georgetown experience, even after just one season, has been unique in its inclusive and nurturing atmosphere.
"The Georgetown crew easily surpassed my expectations," Miller said. "I chose Georgetown based on its unique qualities as a family. It goes without saying that your teammates will be your best friends. But it goes even further than that. There is a deep spiritual and emotional connection between athletes that forms with rowing. The heart of the Georgetown crew family starts in the boat, eight men rowing as one unit, while the body of this rowing family resides off the water and within the program's cultural history and tradition.
"My friends on the rowing team, who I now consider my brothers, continue to surprise me in their commitment to each other. This program breeds not only strong athletes, but also compassionate individuals who know the importance of unity and collaboration."
"Coach Guerrieri once told me, `Rowing can best be compared to playing a really fast game of golf. A rower must have the finesse of a golfer but the lungs of a sprinter,'" he said. "Rowing is a beautiful sport. The boat, visually weightless to a spectator, cuts through the water like a hot knife through butter. The grace and subtle touch of the oarsman makes rowing look effortless. The art of being able to place the blade out at the catch and create a clean and powerful stroke is a mastery very few people have accomplished. This is the one captivating aspect of the sport that I, and the entire rowing community, try to perfect day in and day out.
"Having a high level of fitness also accompanies the necessity of being able to row on the water. I personally enjoy how the training aspect of this sport builds strength and pulling a 2000 meter test will definitely test your willpower. Over the years, the stationary rowing machine (the ergometer) has played a larger and larger role in my life. While this machine could be considered a device of torture, I see it as an enabler. I love the sport of rowing because the physical hardships that one endures during a season are very unique and rewarding. The Georgetown crew program teaches you the value of hard work, because having a disciplined lifestyle is a strong recipe for success."
Miller, who is interested in majoring in economics, government or French, learned not only about the values of hard work in the water, but in the classroom.
"Our rowing program promotes both academic and athletic excellence," he said. "The coaching staff routinely expresses the importance of maintaining an above average GPA. Even though gaining boat speed is important, an athlete cannot jeopardize academics. Balancing my studies with rowing became second nature to me mid-way through my first semester."
Miller felt that the attention to detail by his coaches, combined with the support and encouragement of his teammates, helped make his freshman year a success.
"I always sought out upperclassmen on the team when I had questions about classes, studying and organization," he said. "Whenever I found myself in a rut, someone on the team had a solution. Understanding my teammates' daily routines helped the development of my current study habits. It was not easy balancing my academics with rowing, but it helped me mature, and contributed to my year."
In the water, Miller stepped in and contributed right away for the Hoyas and finished with a season full of memories.
"Our final race in California at the IRA's was my most memorable," Miller said, recalling the championship regatta with detail. "With Penn on our port side and George Washington three lanes over, we went full throttle off of the starting blocks. This was our last opportunity to chase Penn down and earn the much sought after position of first place in our race.
"The night before, all eight of us in the varsity boat made a pact to row the last 1000 meters at an absurd pace, praying that in the last 20 strokes of the race we'd summon the courage and strength to finish the entirety of the 2000 meter course. With GW on our heels and Penn a few seconds ahead of us, our boat crossed the finish line in second place."
It was that race, and the mindset of the members of the boat, that will be his lasting memory of the season and for the next three years of his career.
"Our entire season was defined in those final strokes through the finish," Miller said. "I will never forget that race in California because it allowed me to understand qualitative differences between winning and losing crews. The IRA regatta will be a continuing source of inspiration as I row for Georgetown crew in the coming years. Our greatest glory is not in ever falling, but in rising again every time we fall."
He hopes that those memories will carry over with newcomers coming in next year and down the road.
"I would advise those Georgetown athletes interested in rowing to be prepared to make a commitment," Miller said. "This form of commitment is an unconditional life bond between the athlete and the sport of rowing. Unbeknownst to the athlete, rowing will become an influential part of his or her life, and they will forever refer to themselves as an oarsman.
"It is impossible to escape rowing because you will develop a burning passion for the sport. I am thankful that I was given the opportunity to row because my life would be drastically different if I never picked up an oar. Rowing is a lifestyle, and I urge all prospective athletes to grab an oar."