For freshman Max Halliday, this year has been one for the record books. Halliday has become one of the strongest and fastest rowers on the Ithaca College men’s crew, earning him a spot on the varsity boat, the first freshman to do so in approximately 10 years.
Halliday began rowing during his freshman year of high school. He said he had stopped playing baseball two years prior, and his parents wanted him to try something new.
“I just decided to try it with my friends,” Halliday said. “I did my first year and loved it, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
He continued rowing for all four years of high school on the Arlington-Belmont Crew, which was the team for Arlington High School and Belmont High School in Massachusetts. When it came time to pick a school, he said, the college had everything he was looking for.
“I chose Ithaca mainly for the school,” Halliday said. “My coach always told me you don’t choose your school for rowing; you choose it for education in case you stop rowing.”
Head coach Dan Robinson said that when freshmen arrive on campus, they are put into the novice boat to gain experience. Like all the other freshmen, Halliday was on the novice boat for the start of the year, but the coaching staff made the decision early in the season to bump the freshman up to varsity.
Halliday said that coming into his first season as a Bomber, he wasn’t sure what boat he would be on.
“I knew that my time was kind of fast for the team, but I wasn’t 100 percent sure because I knew usually, freshman stay in the freshman boat,” Halliday said.
Robinson said it is very unusual for a freshman to be on the varsity boat and that it only happens about once every 10 years. His score on the ergometer — the stationary rowing machine — is currently one of the fastest on the team.
“On paper, he was our best recruit,” Robinson said. “But the paper stuff is secondary. You don’t really get to know a guy until he’s been here. He’s got a good build for it and a good erg score.”
The team this year is smaller than it has been in the past. This year, There are only 16 people on varsity and 13 on novice, compared to 26 and 14, respectively, last year.
“He’s good enough to be in the varsity boat,” Robinson said. “In other years, we had other guys good enough, but we didn’t bring them up because we had a lot of depth.”
Senior captain Branden George said Halliday really established himself during winter training as one of the best guys on the team.
“Throughout winter training, he definitely stepped up to the plate,” George said. “We knew we needed one more guy to fill out our varsity eight, and he had the previous experience and strength to get to it.”
Halliday made his debut in the varsity boat April 2 against the Rochester Institute of Technology and the University of Rochester on the Cayuga Inlet. The boat finished in 6:56.56 and placed first by nearly four seconds.
Halliday said that when he made the transition to the varsity boat, he was not treated any differently from the other rowers.
“They don’t really care if you are a freshman or sophomore,” Halliday said. “As long as you are making the boat go fast and having a good mentality, they accept you,” Halliday said.
Halliday is in the fourth seat of the boat, in the section referred to as the “engine room.” The first and second seat are responsible for the stability of the boat, while the third through sixth seats house the strongest and fastest men on the team. The seventh and eighth seats set the stroke rate and tempo of the boat. The eighth seat is right in front of the coxswain, who sits forward and gives directions to the boat.
As for the next three seasons, Robinson said, he has high hopes for Halliday.
“The guys who put the work in, that means they’re enjoying it and they think it’s worth it. In return, when they put the work in, they improve, and they help the boats go faster,” Robinson said. “I forget he’s a freshman. He’s just part of the varsity boat now.”