This week's feature is an interview with Dartmouth Lightweight sophomore Wyatt Genasci-Smith, who is studying abroad in Cambodia prior to his return for the spring racing season. We chat with him about the role his teammates play in life as well as his world travels.
row2k - How did you get your start in rowing, and why did you decide to enroll at Dartmouth?
Wyatt Genasci-Smith - Having spent summers in Maine, I loved sailing, the water, and was a big sailor freshman year of high school. I wanted to get in shape for sailing sophomore spring, so I joined my high school’s winter rowing conditioning program. The program was run by the rowing coach and included most of the crew team. It turned out that I wasn’t bad on the erg and I built a great relationship with the team and coach. By the time spring rolled around, the guys had convinced me to join the team, a decision made easier by how much I enjoyed the program. I started rowing that spring and had an incredible three seasons under coach Taylor Washburn and alongside some pretty amazing individuals.
I've always been into the outdoors, hiking, climbing, being on the water etc. so Dartmouth immediately stood out, as it offered access to all of the above and a campus away from a city. The team at Dartmouth played a huge role in my decision to attend as well. To me they were hardworking, smart students and equally hardworking athletes. They were welcoming, goofy, and really down to earth guys and I connected with them right away.
row2k - You're currently studying abroad in Cambodia; how has that experience been and how did you decide on that location?
Wyatt Genasci Smith - I grew up in Hong Kong and frequented Cambodia with my mom and siblings, following her on work trips. I'm on the pre-med track right now, so an opportunity to work at the Angkor Hospital for Children in Siem Reap was one I couldn’t pass up. It’s an incredible place where they’re providing free, world-class medical care and medical education in a resource and finance-poor setting. Siem Reap is a really neat town. People here are friendly, the food is great, and I'm constantly finding interesting places and things to do in my free time.
row2k - You're still planning on racing this spring; how are you balancing training while abroad?
Wyatt Genasci-Smith - I have been erging on an erg I found in a gym of a hotel in town and that takes the brunt of my training. I'm running in the mornings with a local guy I met and biking as well to mix it up. I’ve also been doing Muai Thai, which is a big sport in Southeast Asia. I did Taekwondo and Muai Thai in Hong Kong for many years, so it's been fun to get back into it. It's an incredible workout and they go hard here in Cambodia. It's been fun supplementing my training with a different sport that shares similar ideas of pushing past pain and perceived limits and ultimately going longer and harder than you think you can.
row2k - Your coach mentioned you've had some unique summer experiences; can you tell us about some of those?
Wyatt Genasci-Smith - My mom's aunt and uncle and cousins are cattle ranchers in the high desert in Eastern Oregon. I grew up with a fascination of the American West and read all the western novels I could. When I first visited a few years ago I knew I had to spend more time out there. Junior year of high school I called up my great aunt and uncle and told them I wanted to work for them that summer, and I'd work hard and work for nothing. They took me on and I spent that summer riding horses, tending cattle, driving tractors, and fixing fences. They ended up paying me, so they worked me hard to get their money's worth and I can't be thankful enough for that experience. That summer taught me a lot about hard work and appreciation of work, land, family and taught me about appreciating what you have.
I fell in love with the silence, stars, and long hot days, and I had to go back. At the end of the summer I asked around in the local town, Burns Oregon, an hour and a half away, and filled out some applications online and got a job fighting wildland fires for the Bureau of Land Management out of Burns for the summer after I graduated from high school. That summer, I flew out to Oregon, took out a loan, bought a pickup truck and drove to Burns where I worked fighting fire. It was a whole different experience than ranching and I was surrounded by a different crowd of people. I met some pretty amazing, extremely hardworking men and women fighting fire. Wildland firefighters do a lot of unseen work protecting the country's natural resources, work that is challenging and dangerous but rewarding, and I found huge admiration for the work and these people.
Genasci-Smith (7-seat) racing at Sprints in 2016
row2k - What do you like most about the sport of rowing?
Wyatt Genasci-Smith - My draw to the sport has been the same throughout the years, my teammates. I'm hooked on the incredible sense of camaraderie I've felt competing for the two teams I have been on. I feel really fortunate to have had teammates who have made me feel welcome, brought me in, and who have pushed me to be the best I possibly can. The feeling of synergy, determination, and raw hard work is unparalleled and has had me hooked since day one.
row2k - What has been your most memorable race and why?
Wyatt Genasci-Smith - I know it's a big throwback and it makes me laugh thinking it, but it's probably got to be the 2013 NEIRA 1V 8+ grand finals. I was a sophomore (at Tabor Academy), the youngest and smallest in the boat, and completely new to the sport. We ended up getting third by a hair, which was great for our program and exciting. I had never been part of something so big, in a team and under a coach I respected so much. The adrenaline coupled with the excitement and uncertainty I felt surrounding this sport that I really knew nothing about was amazing. That being said, every race I've raced with the Dartmouth Lights has been memorable. I respect each one of my current teammates immensely and feel so fortunate to be able to call them my teammates and race with them. I’m looking forward to our races going forward and watching our team grow.
row2k - What are you studying at Dartmouth and do you have any ideas on what you’d like to pursue after college?
Wyatt Genasci-Smith - I'm studying biology and on the pre-med track. I've always enjoyed helping people and I think a career in medicine, especially emergency medicine, would be incredibly rewarding. I recently got my EMT license out in Lander, Wyoming and hope to go back out west and work as a line medic on another fire crew next summer.