A 21-year coxswain who learned his craft at the Cleveland Rowing Foundation’s Rivergate Park Boathouse is representing the United States in international competition this week.
Cleveland’s Dominic Santora, a Saint Ignatius High School graduate, will cox the U.S. Men’s 8 at the Under 23 World Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. The competition begin begins Wednesday and runs through July 23.
“My freshman year at Saint Ignatius, they had a special day for us to get a feel for the school and I was in line for lunch, and there was a boat in the middle of the quad,” said Santora. “Andrew Kershaw, one of the coaches there, came up to me and said, ‘Show up to this rowing meeting. You’ll be perfect for team.’ And the rest is history.”
Santora was a varsity coxswain for four years at Saint Ignatius and also has coxed the men’s master’s team for the Western Reserve Rowing Association (WRRA). Last summer, he helped the Masters Men’s 8 win gold at the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta in Ontario, Canada.
Both the St. Ignatius crew team and WRRA are headquartered at the Rivergate Park Boathouse and train on the twisting, turning Cuyahoga River, where racing shells have to share the water with giant Great Lakes freighters and powerful pleasure boats.
“Having watched Dominic grow as a person, an athlete and a coxswain, it’s thrilling now to see him represent our country at the World Championships,” said Kirk Lang, executive director of the Cleveland Rowing Foundation and coaching director for WRRA. “He just got better and better over the years he trained and competed here, and he truly has earned this opportunity.”
Coxswains not only steer the shells, they serve as coaches, counselors, and motivators to the rowers in their boats, making split second decisions about rhythm, rate and strategy during the intensity of a high-stakes race.
“I’m in charge of taking eight guys on water and bringing them back safely,” said the 5-foot-7, 125-pound Santora. “I have to manage these men to keep them doing the same thing and it’s really tough. “
Based on his performance at Syracuse – where this June he was at the helm when the Orangemen finished 8th place at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships – Santora this spring was invited to the Under 23 National Team Trials.
There, on Lake Mercer near Princeton, NJ, he competed with other coxing candidates for a coveted spot on the national team. The coaches shuffled coxswains and rowers looking for just the right combination to represent the United States. The team that finally emerged includes three rowers from Cornell and one each from Stanford, Syracuse, George Washington, Marist and Wisconsin – plus Santora
“It’s been great,” he said before departing for Bulgaria. “It’s the fastest boat I have ever coxed. I love these guys. These are the guys that want to go fast.”
For more information, contact Kirk Lang at 216.308.4183
Assist Dominic and the rest of his U23 crew finance their trip to Bulgaria with a donation via their RallyMe page: https://nrf.rallyme.com/rallies/8051