By Brian Deakyne
LINCROFT – When be began his rowing career at Christian Brothers Academy, senior Mike Guadagno had a bit of an edge.
Unlike nearly all of his teammates, Guadagno, the son of New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, joined the Colts rowing program with previous experiences in the sport.
Guadagno grew up as a hockey player, but after 11 years of carving up ice and ripping slap shots, he was urged by a teammate to give rowing a try – and he never looked back.
“That would be the big thing with Mike,” CBA crew coach Scott Belford said. “He’s one of the few guys I’ve ever had who came in with rowing experience. He has been a great influence and has that additional background.”
Guadagno, who just completed his junior year at CBA, joined Navesink River Rowing Club a year before entering high school and that helped mold him into a solid rower as he entered high school.
“I did some awesome things my first year (with the rowing club) and then went off to CBA with my freshman coach, Christine Stopyra, who is an amazing coach and has done wonders on our freshman team for years now,” Guadagno said. “My sophomore year was my first year with coach (Scott) Belford, who obviously has done great things for our team and program over the last 10 years. It was awesome that this year it started to pay off some more.”
This year, Guadagno, who was a member of the highly successful lightweight four-boat that brought home a number of victories, will join Jack Smallwood and Kevin Hayes as a co-captain for the CBA crew team.
“He’s always had a great feel in the water and knowing what to do to make the boat go faster,” Belford said of Guadagno. “But there has been a change in his leadership. He’s always been a quiet kid, but now he knows when to let the guys know, ‘Hey, we know what we need to do, now let’s go out there and get the win.’ He’s always led by example, but now he’s emerged on the leadership end of it, too.”
“We had an awesome year this year, but we’re only trying to get better,” Guadagno said of his CBA crew team. “We won as many races as we could, except for the last one in Canada. Obviously, this year we’re looking to go as far as we can without a loss with as many boats as we can.”
Although Guadagno only has been rowing for four years, he said playing other sports growing up has helped him and his teammates grow into a very different kind of sport.
“We get a lot of transfer athletes from other sports who weren’t maybe the most coordinated or talented in their sport, but are still really good physically,” he said. “I know for me, hockey for as long as I played it, really helped me when I tried to transition.”
With one year left in his high school career, Guadagno said he is unsure what lies ahead, except for the fact that he wants to continue to row in college, wherever that may be.
“It’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about. I definitely want to row in college,” he said. “I’m trying to keep my options open as best as I can. SATs, grades and hopefully rowing will help me out in the future, but I really don’t know yet how it’s all going to pan out.”
But even Guadagno realizes how important it becomes to go out and make an impact while representing CBA.
“We’ve had some graduates go on to some really high-level programs and they’ve been doing wonders for their teams,” he said. “They make a good name for CBA at some of the top teams and schools in the country. Seeing what they’ve done, and seeing how hard they’ve worked and put the effort in to succeed, I think the guys from CBA really have an advantage over most kids in their experience, their work ethic, and the coaching they’ve received here.”