April 6, 2011

Senior Pantoja Happy He Dedicated Himself to Crew

By Carolyn Linck, '11

Senior and four year team member Andy Pantoja (AP) can attest that crew is a remarkably demanding and rewarding sport.  Recently www.SantaClaraBroncos.com (SCB) caught up with Pantoja about how he got started with his SCU career, how rowing has shaped his college experience and his role on the team as a senior.

SCB: How did you start participating in crew at Santa Clara?

AP: As a freshman I had never rowed before, but I came to SCU knowing I wanted to be a part of an organization. I went to the club fair and I was pretty active in my Resident Learning Community (RLC), but I wasn't completely satisfied. I wanted to join a team or club that added structure and discipline to my day, so I spoke to my Community Facilitator (CF) about joining a team on campus. He use to row and told me about the heavy workload, the early mornings, the guys on the team and the strenuous nature of the sport. Looking back now, I must say, I was quite ambitious as a first-year student. Soon after talking to my CF, I met the team and joined. Now, four years later, I live with my teammates who have become best friends, and I couldn't be happier with my decision.

SCB: What sports did you play growing up?

AP: Growing up I played baseball, but my focus changed to football in high school. I played four seasons of football, one season of basketball and I threw three seasons on the track and field team.

SCB: What do you feel you have learned in your four years of rowing at SCU?

AP: Rowing has definitely had a substantial impact on my development in college. Psychologically speaking, it's taught me that tenacity and will power takes a person a long way. The pain that accompanies the erg workouts and the two thousand meter races is incomparable to any other athletic workouts I've done. It's made me quite headstrong, while keeping me focused. More importantly, it's made me a team player. Though the boat is made up of individuals, every individual has the same responsibility of pulling their weight. There is no one position that's more important than the next, nor is there any individual ego in the boat.

SCB: What is your role on the team now as a senior?

AP: As a senior, I find that my role is to lead and relate to the younger and new team members. Our rowing program prides itself on recruiting dedicated walk-on athletes, 99% of which have never rowed before. Being around the sport and the team atmosphere for four years, it's my role to show the new rowers how to be team players, how to maintain a good work ethic and integrate them into the team.

SCB: How has being a member of the crew team enhanced your college experience?

AP: My college experience has been extremely fulfilling. I helped found a fraternity, went abroad, took a number of different courses, had an amazing internship, but rowing has been my biggest commitment, as well as my greatest joy. I've developed some great relationships, established better work habits and have shared let down and success with a group of guys that I now consider my best friends. I know that I'm a better student, better person and a better athlete because of rowing. It's kept me focused and driven, and I'm going to miss it.

SCB: What is your favorite memory in your four years of rowing for Santa Clara?

AP: As a freshman and sophomore, my older teammates lived on Bellomy Street. There was nothing better than going over to their house to watch the Superbowl, have team dinners, watch movies and play videogames. Those were simple times, and I sure do cherish them.

SCB: What are your goals and expectations for your senior season?

AP: Coming off a great season and winning the WCC, I expect our core group of seniors to lead the team and row as well as possible. I don't expect to win every race, but I know that we can work hard enough to be at the top of the WCC again. I expect our team to keep working and fighting every time we get on the water.

SCB: Crew is notorious for its early morning workouts. What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning for practice?

AP: I like to think that by waking up so early, I get to experience more of my day. While most of my classmates and friends are still sleeping, I have already had a great morning workout. I also know that I have a team relying on me to make it to practice. It's an encouraging feeling when you show up to practice and your team is fired up and ready to row.

SCB: How do you balance rowing with school?

AP: At first, it was the most difficult thing to do, but I am glad I stuck with it. Rowing has slowly integrated into my everyday life, and it feels like another, more physically demanding class on my schedule. Rowing helps me manage my schedule by structuring my day with practices. The priority registration helps us choose classes around our practices, allowing us to maintain a reasonable schedule. I personally feel that rowing is a huge part of my life, and I'm going to find it difficult to fill the time when I graduate.