by Alessandra Simeone
Row New York senior Juan Graciano recently went on an official visit to Loyola University, where he got a glimpse of college life, rowing, and a place he might call home come fall 2015!
Juan first learned of Loyola University just a few days after competing in the world-renowned indoor C.R.A.S.H.-B Sprints in Boston. Loyola’s head rowing coach reached out to Juan and spoke favorably of his race: “he liked my performance and how I didn’t give up during the 2k.” With these words in mind, Juan’s interest in Loyola only grew. And, as a senior, he now had the opportunity (per NCAA compliance) to have an official visit with the Division 1 Loyola University Rowing team.
Though located in northern Baltimore, Juan felt the Loyola University campus had a distinctly suburban feel (a sentiment probably similar to those of many native New Yorkers, whose concept of “city” is on a grand scale). He also enjoyed the antique style of the apartments and the architecture on campus, and felt at ease finding his way around and “learning where every apartment was, as well as the athletic center.” Though Baltimore isn’t quite New York, Juan appreciated the campus and all it had to offer. “It felt like I was at home”, he says, proving that Charm City might be a good fit for his tastes.
Known among his RNY teammates as very gregarious, Juan was still understandably nervous to meet Loyola’s rowing team. “At the beginning I felt a little shy, because it was my first time being by myself in a place I had never been,” he said. But he soon learned that his nervousness was unnecessary. “All of the guys on the team went up to me and started talking to me.”
With his concerns aside, Juan realized that the Loyola coaching staff and team were very similar to his RNY coaches and teammates, which helped to ease his fears. At the Loyola team’s practice, Juan observed intently, to help him envision and determine a possible future with the program.
He spoke favorably of the coaching – “I really liked the practice on the water, because the coaches were telling me stories about how the team won the men’s 8 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Rowing Championship in 2009. I really liked how the coach was checking every single detail, from the Varsity Eight and from the Novice Eight” – and the team dynamics of the Loyola crew. “I really liked their lightweight squad, because they are a really nice group of boys who are willing to put everything into the races.”
Juan even found some new friends on the visit – two other recruits and Juan determined they could be potential dorm-mates! In addition, Juan learned about Loyola’s marketing program (his potential college major) and appreciated the academic scene. “They have small classes, which is something I really liked because I could interact with the professor whenever I don’t understand something.” He was able to see how academics and athletics work cohesively for the student-athlete at Loyola – “their Athletic Advisers try to make their classes not interfere with practice.”
Juan enjoyed the learning the ins and outs of being a collegiate student-athlete, but other aspects of college life equally piqued his interest. “The thing that I really liked was when the team took me around the campus, where we played ultimate Frisbee… and in the night we played some video games, and that made me feel like I belonged there.” He’s still a senior in high school, but we’re thinking that Juan is well on his way to college!
Thank you to Loyola University and Rowing Head Coach Al Ramirez for hosting Juan and giving him a wonderful experience!