St. Mary's College of Maryland
St. Mary's College of Maryland has always been known as a quality liberal arts school that also happens to have a red hot sailing program.
The campus is perched on a "bay-like" bend of the picturesque St. Mary's River, and since sailing became a varsity sport in 1960, the team has won 15 national titles.
The River Center, home to the program, is surrounded by sailboats and filled with all things nautical necessary for a program that has produced 150 All-Americans, in addition to a few Olympic team athletes and coaches.
Up until this year, a smaller number of boats and equipment used by the school's men's and women's club rowing teams have maintained their own, albeit smaller, presence in the boathouse.
This year, that has changed.
With the start of the new academic year, St. Mary's crew teams have been elevated to varsity status and program building has begun. Head coach Dan Hagelberg is well aware that it will take a few years to get up to the speed of the sailing team, but he is unquestionably excited to have an opportunity to build the school's new program.
"The ability to build a program here was what attracted me," said Hagelberg. "In the sense of what the varsity program can become and what it can look like in the next four years - that's on me. And it's very exciting."
St. Mary's, Hagelberg said, has had a club rowing program for over 20 years ago. "They started with an old beat-up four and a few people and then added equipment and athletes over the years. The school is a sailing school," he said.
"The lawn here has 40 or 50 sailboats out front. So it's a school that is very in touch with the water and the waterfront, but the rowing program has never fully flourished."
The school conducted a feasibility study to determine what impact a rowing program could have and what would take to start a program.
"They built a concept of what they wanted," Hagelberg said. "The school felt that having a varsity rowing program could build on their vision of what the administration wanted for the waterfront and the student body."
The process will be gradual and develop over time, but Hagelberg said he is been careful to not eliminate the fun and social aspects from the existing club programs, while instilling a competitive atmosphere.
"I heard that there was going to be some pushback from the athletes," he said. "There was a feeling that I was going to come in and cut everyone and bring in new rowers and that they would lose the fun and social connection they enjoyed and just train and race.
"I made it clear right away that, yes, I did want to have a competitive program, but I also want it to be fun."
St. Mary's women's squad began their first official spring racing season March 17th against Mid-Atlantic Rowing Conference opponent, Franklin & Marshall College and notched a win in the third varsity eight. "The team is excited," Hagelberg said. "Our goal when I got here last July was to go faster. We're doing that.
"Over the coming years, we hope to bring in recruits and attract students who might not have considered St. Mary's as an option prior to this, and to continue to get faster as a program."