As coxswain for the Canadian men’s eight squad in the under-23 World Rowing Championships in Belgrade, Serbia, this past July, sophomore Ryan Howard led his team and his country to a gold medal finish. Canada topped France, which got out to a blistering pace in the competition, by a remarkable two boat lengths.
Howard said, “There was absolutely nothing better than representing my country and winning a gold medal. It is one step below my ultimate goal, which is to win a gold medal for Canada in the Olympics.”
The Rockport, Ontario, native will get his shot to compete for the Olympic squad in 2005, and fulfill his rowing dream.
However, his road to the under-23 championships had a rocky beginning. Howard tried out in the summer of 2002 in British Columbia, and after being kept for an extra week of tryouts, was ultimately cut from the squad. Howard vigorously trained throughout last season, where he was coxswain for the Cornell freshman heavyweight squad, which finished seventh in the country, and he improved greatly on his steering and voice commands.
“I gained tremendous leadership skills and steering practice last year,” Howard commented, “which led to my growth as a coxie.”
Winning a gold medal on such a large scale would give anyone enormous confidence, but Howard understands that competing for the Cornell varsity squad has its own unique challenges.
“While it will be difficult, I have supreme confidence we’ll be competitive in the national finals this year.”
Howard is one of five coxswains on the varsity team and is not sure, at this point, in which boat he will be. The team begins competition in October, so the decision will certainly be decided before that point.
Being an effective coxswain involves leadership skills, and entails heavy responsibilities: a strong voice, the ability to motivate, and steering capabilities. In his preparation, Howard partakes in repetitive voice conditioning drills.
“At this point, even if I scream my head off for six straight hours everyday, I won’t lose my voice,” Howard said.
When his throat is sore, he actually gargles salt water, and one of his rowing traditions is to suck on a lemon on the start line of each race.
After 12 strenuous practices six days each week in high school — one at 6 a.m. and another at 5 p.m. — the daily two-hour practices Howard endures for the Red do not seem as grueling.
“We do pack a lot more into these two-hour practices than I did in high school, but they can’t really expect more time from us since our workload is so intense.”
Speaking of his academic pursuits, Howard is in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and is currently deciding on either pursuing a degree in Biology, or in Applied Economics and Management, or both. He said that he would like to go to medical school at some point in the future. Howard was recruited heavily by Cornell, especially by freshmen coach Dan Allen, who was a very positive influence on Howard this past school year. Besides being only three hours from his home in Ontario, Canada, he knew from his first visit to Ithaca that Cornell was the place he wanted to call home for the next four years.
“The place is gorgeous, I saw people having fun, it looked like a great atmosphere, it was a nice community and there seemed not to be a negative stigma attached to the students here,” Howard said. “Everyone seemed nice and not snobbish or conceited; it was refreshing.”
Howard also considered Princeton, Brown, Harvard, and a few other schools in Canada.
He added, “Although Harvard probably has a better rowing team now, I actually preferred coming to a team that has room to grow and build. I think that by the end of my time here, we will reach our potential and be on top in the country.”
Archived article by Josh Fox