A Dream Come True: Keane Johnson to represent U.S. at World University Games

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June 25, 2013 by conteconfidential

Keane Johnson always set high goals for himself. As early as his rookie season at Boston College, he dreamed of one day rowing for his country.

“I wanted to row for a national team at some point,” he said. “I was in love with the idea of rowing for the United States but I never thought I had a genuine chance of doing it.”

After going through a grueling tryout period, Johnson earned the chance to realize his dream, becoming the first BC men’s rower to compete overseas for a national team.

The former captain will represent the U.S. at the 2013 World University Games July 6-8 in Kazan, Russia. This international multi-sports event was founded in the late 1920s and is organized by the International University Sports Federation.

Johnson was one of nine athletes picked to compete in the men’s eight by USRowing, along with Marist coxswain Christopher Leonard, George Washington University’s Kasey Charles Colander, UCLA’s Jeffrey Latham, UC Santa Barbara’s Luke Wilhelm, Wisconsin’s James Letten, Minnesota’s Luke Yehlen, Drexel’s Ian Luetzow and Pitt’s Zachary Petronic. Four come from varsity programs and five, including Johnson, competed at the club level in college.

Making the team was never a guarantee. The 2013 graduate was actually among the second round of invites to the camp and was mainly excited to have the chance to compete against some of college’s best rowers.

“I was talking to a bunch of the other guys who made it, and we all agreed we thought we were going to come and get to row with some really fast guys and some really skilled rowers and we’re going to get cut and it’s going to be a good experience,” Johnson said. “But we didn’t think we were going to go to Russia.”

Even though he knew that he was a bit of an underdog, Johnson adopted the mentality that he was one of the ones to beat for a coveted spot in the boat.


(photo credit: Annie Lin-Johnson)

“Going into camp, I had the mindset that I was going to make the team, no matter what,” he said. “You can’t go into something expecting to possibly be cut and expect to succeed.”

The camp was held at Community Rowing, Inc., BC’s home base. Having spent the last four years navigating the Charles River at practice and various regattas, Johnson knew the course better than anybody.

“Knowing the area, the boathouse and the river definitely gave me an advantage and made me a lot more comfortable than some of the other guys,” he said.

Johnson wasn’t always at home on the water. Like many men who join the club crew team at BC, he didn’t have any prior rowing experience. But the former high school baseball player proved to be a natural because of his good height and reach.

“I had a few advantages,” Johnson said, with a laugh. “I’m kind of tall.”

But his work ethic and drive was what really set him apart. Teammate Thomas McShane recalled how he often found Johnson in the erg hall or Plex getting in a second workout.

“Keane always meant business when it came to working out,” McShane said. “In crew, you are the main factor in how you will perform. Yes, there are physical advantages, but the people who are the most successful are the people who push themselves the hardest.”

Until they leave for Kazan, Johnson and his teammates will continue to practice two to three times a day at CRI. He said that he’s looking forward to the opening ceremony, where he’ll get to walk in with his fellow Americans clad in red, white and blue.

More than anything, though, he can’t wait to hit the water to race.

 “It’s been almost a week now, knowing I’m on the team, and I still can’t really believe it,” Johnson said. “I don’t think I’ll believe it until I’m actually in Russia racing.”

By Jen Dobias

(We will be checking in with Johnson when he returns home from Russia. Make sure to stay tuned to hear all about his experience at the World University Games.)

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