MEDFORD - Capping a season of great progress, the Tufts University men's rowing team had three members named to the 2017 New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) All-Conference Teams on Wednesday.
With two rowers on the All-Conference first team and three honored overall, the Jumbos received more NESCAC recognition than ever before. Seniors Tyler McCullough and Zach Merchant were the first Tufts rowers ever named to the All-NESCAC first team. Senior Doug Burt was a second team member.
NESCAC has announced an All-Conference team since 2010. The 10-member squads are comprised of individuals from the eight league teams based on each team's finish at the NESCAC championships, which are held in conjunction with the National Invitational Rowing Championship (NIRC). Tufts was third among conference teams this spring.
After posting a 2-4 regular-season record against strong competition, the Jumbos finaled at both the New England Rowing Championships and the NIRC. They were sixth in the grand final at both events.
Merchant was a two-year team captain for the Jumbos who has been a crucial leader for the Tufts men's rowing team. A former soccer player, he walked on to the Tufts rowing team, and commenced a steady journey up the ranks. This spring, Merchant stroked the first varsity eight to its best performance in decades, putting Tufts' men into the grand final at the NIRC for the first time in the 24-year history of the regatta.
"At each level his leadership was evident, whether as the stroke of an overperforming third varsity eight his sophomore year, or as part of the first eight in his junior and senior years," said Tufts' Director of Rowing and men's head coach Noel Wanner.
Hailing from Hawaii, McCullough seemed an unlikely candidate for the rigors of New England rowing, with its blustery weather and unrelenting challenge. However, his time on the team was marked by his unfailing enthusiasm and remarkable physical toughness. A walk-on to the team, he proved to be one of the strongest pound-for-pound athletes they've ever had.
"His presence in the stern pair of the varsity eight this spring brought both his toughness and his enthusiasm to the character of the boat, helping to lead the group to a stellar culmination to the spring," Wanner said.
As co-captain this year, Burt grew immensely into a quiet leader who his teammates depended on. With technical skill refined during his time rowing at Choate, Burt grew in strength, toughness and determination each year with the Tufts team. This year he was instrumental in getting all his teammates on board with the necessary training to succeed - with results that were felt throughout the program.
"In the bow pair of the varsity eight this spring, Doug handled weeks of challenging results with calm determination, helping his teammates focus on the goal of finding their best speed during the championship races - which they did, achieving the best results of any Tufts varsity boat for over a decade," Wanner said.