Phil & Phil Advance to Semis

Henson (near) and Grisdela

Early yesterday, around 4:00 pm local time in Amsterdam, Dartmouth’s own Phil Grisdela ’12 and Phil Henson ‘11 earned a spot in the men’s lightweight pair semifinals at the U-23 World Rowing Championships. The two will compete again on Friday for a chance to row in the finals. Veterans of the varsity lightweight rowing team at Dartmouth, Grisdela and Henson led the crew this year to a runner-up finish at the Eastern Sprints in Worcester, MA, and a bronze medal at the collegiate national championships in Camden, NJ.

While most lightweight rowers like to celebrate the season’s end with some well-deserved rest, relaxation, and (most importantly) food, the Dartmouth pair never let their training falter. In fact, with exams out of the way, they were able to refocus and double their efforts. The hard work paid off towards the end of June, when the two finished first in the national time trials at Mercer Boat Club in New Jersey, earning them a chance to represent the United States in the men’s lightweight pair event.

As lightweights, the two must each weigh below 160 pounds prior to racing (no small feat when you’re 6’2”). In a “pair,” each individual holds one oar and rows “sweep-style.” This is in contrast to a “double,” where each rower uses two smaller oars in a “sculling” motion. A pair is inherently unstable; the slightest mistake from one oarsman will send the boat crashing down to his partner’s side. Balance is only possible through pinpoint synchronization. To that end, it certainly helps that Phil and Phil share more than just a name. The two are practically identical in terms of height, weight, and power, which makes the nearly impossible task of balancing a pair just a bit simpler.

Over the past few weeks, Grisdela and Henson have trained doggedly under Coach Bob Gillette at Riverside Boat Club in Boston. Having a pair with two rowers named Phil is understandably a source of some confusion for both the mentor and the mentees. But Gillette came up with a solution: just call them “Bert (Henson) and Ernie (Grisdela).” The Sesame Street moniker caught on immediately with the rest of the U.S. team.

And with their success today, rowing fans everywhere are talking about Bert and Ernie. Their international rowing debut had them squared against Germany, Denmark, and Turkey in the other lanes. The Dartmouth pair remained strong and steady throughout the race. By the 1000m halfway point, in fact, the pair had actually taken the lead, but a strong sprint by the Germans nudged them back into second place. With a strong showing on Friday in the semifinals, the two will have a shot at gold, and the decoration of world champions, on Saturday.

On behalf of The Review and the rest of the Dartmouth community, we wish these two tremendous student-athletes the very best of luck. Bring it home for Dartmouth and for the USA.

Thomas L. Hauch