It’s unclear if Steven Genise is a morning person. But he made himself into one, at least temporarily.
For the month leading up to the U.S. Rowing Youth National Championship in Sarasota, Florida, earlier this month, Genise drove from Berkeley to the North Bay Rowing Club boathouse on the Petaluma River to train recent Casa Grande grad Shannon Gallup, sometimes twice a day. Her morning workout usually started at 6 a.m.
“It’s a lot to ask somebody: ‘On every day of your week will you get up extremely early?’” Gallup said. “He offered immediately.”
The result? An 11th-place finish for Gallup, a four-year veteran of the North Bay Rowing Club. It is the highest-ever national finish for an NBRC rower. And it came in a discipline Gallup had only raced three times before the national contest.
If you are ready to give Genise — in his first year with the club — coach of the year honors, wait for this: It was unclear until just before the competition that Gallup would even be admitted. Those early morning sessions on the water followed by weights in the afternoon could have all been for naught had Gallup’s petition to be included been denied.
But Genise never looked at it that way.
“It’s surprisingly easy when you are excited about the possibility of going,” he said. “We just never addressed the possibility that we wouldn’t go.”
You see, Gallup finished fourth in the singles category at the regional competition in Folsom. Only the top three move on. But the coaches at the NBRC thought Gallup showed such potential in just her third race in the discipline that they wrote a petition on her behalf. By rule, competing coaches must sign on. They did.
So the waiting game was on. But so was the training.
“It was terrible. There isn’t, like, another way to say it,” she said. “It was really hard. I was lucky to have coach Steve Genise. He had to leave Berkeley around 5, sometimes twice a day. It really meant a lot.”
About two weeks before nationals, Gallup got word: She was in.
“It was kind of like waiting, waiting, waiting and then go,” she said.
Of all the coaches at the NBRC, Genise has the most experience in rowing a single. It’s a huge shift to go from a pair, which was what Gallup had been rowing, or even a four-seater, which she also had experience in.
Genise compared it to being a sprinter — say, a 100- or 200-meter specialist — and then, three weeks before the biggest meet in the country, switching to the mile.
In pairs, athletes have one oar. In singles, they control two. And while the distance is the same, the singles race takes much longer because it’s just one athlete making the boat go those 2,000 meters, Genise said.
“There is a pretty different way to row the boat,” he said.
It’s also more time alone on the water, trying to maintain focus and rhythm.
“You have to get yourself ready for a longer race,” he said. “It’s much more self-motivated.”
Luckily, the Boston University-bound Gallup is pretty motivated. She earned a rowing scholarship and will study medicine.
“She is incredibly talented,” Genise said. “And she’s a really fast learner.”