Matt Catanoso’s season as a coxswain for the U.S. Naval Academy included making the varsity eight and winning a championship at the Henley Royal Regatta in England.
Not bad for a freshman walk-on.
Catanoso, a 2018 Ocean City High School varsity-eight graduate, was the coxswain of a Navy crew that won the King’s Cup, for international military eight crews, on July 7 at the Henley Regatta in Henley-on-Thames, England. Each country’s eight-crew in the King’s Cup combined men’s varsity eight, men’s lightweight eight and women’s varsity eight rowers.
The King’s Cup was first held in 1919. It was held this year for the first time since then, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Royal Henley Peace Regatta. The event was held in 1919 to help heal the wounds of World War I.
The original six nations — Australia, Canada, France, New Zealand, the United States and the United Kingdom — all returned this year, and were joined by Germany and the Netherlands. Navy represented the U.S. military.
“It was a great experience,” said Catanoso, of Seaville in Upper Township. “It was extra special since I got to represent my country in a great event. It was so much fun to be a part of and to interact with other militaries. We hung out with the Australians. They were really good guys.”
Races at the Henley Royal Regatta are all match races where the loser is eliminated. The Navy crew won handily over Canada in the first round and France in the semifinals. In the championship race, Catanoso guided the Navy boat to a win by a bit less than a boatlength over Germany. The races were each 2,112 meters (about 1¼ miles).
“The race against Germany was much closer than the other two,” Catanoso said. “About the first 40 strokes we were up, but then Germany took the lead. About three-quarters to a mile into the race we started to walk back. Our game plan was to have a lower (stroke) rating and have something left at the end. About a mile and an eighth into the race we had the lead and kept it.
“Winning it was really surreal. I was holding the King’s Cup. I couldn’t believe it was happening.”
At Ocean City, Catanoso took up crew as a sophomore and was the coxswain of the second eight for two years before being the varsity-eight coxswain as a senior. The 2018 O.C. varsity eight was South Jersey’s top boat, and Ocean City was The Press Team of the Year in 2018.
“Matt was always an overachiever, and always wanted to do his best,” said Mike Millar, the Ocean City High School boys crew coach. “You could tell he was headed places. Becoming the varsity-eight coxswain as a college freshman is a pretty big deal, especially with a school like Navy. They had a good year, with some wins and losses, but winning at Henley is better than all that.”
At Navy, Catanoso started off practicing with the freshman crews. He was moved up to the third eight and then the second eight. He became the varsity eight coxswain early in the spring season.
The Navy varsity eight placed 10th overall at the Eastern Sprints in May in Worcester, Massachusetts, and was 14th at the IRA National Championship in June in Gold River, California.
“After summer training we’ll get right back into the swing of things,” Catanoso said. “We want to take the next step in the upcoming season. We only lost one senior. There will be a lot of hard training, and hopefully in the spring we’ll make some of our goals a reality. I’m very excited for the upcoming season.”
Catanoso is now a rising sophomore at Navy, also known as Midshipman third class.