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Dad Vail 2019: Temple rower Stephen Gennaro continues family tradition of parents and brothers

The Owls' senior from Havertown has parents who were rowers at Villanova, and two older brothers who preceded him in the sport at St. Joseph's Prep. Now he is seeking to help lead Temple to a repeat victory in the heavyweight eight at the Jefferson Dad Vail Regatta.

Temple rower Stephen Gannaro, front, helps his crew carry a boat toward the water at the Temple Boathouse earlier this month.
Temple rower Stephen Gannaro, front, helps his crew carry a boat toward the water at the Temple Boathouse earlier this month.Read moreJESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer

Temple senior Stephen Gennaro comes from a family of rowers. His parents competed at Villanova, and his two older brothers participated in the sport at St. Joseph’s Prep before he followed their path there.

Perhaps the most notable part of the family dynamic, however, came last summer, during the draw at the Henley Royal Regatta in England. The Owls’ heavyweight eight boat was paired against a team from Yale, including his middle brother, Mike, who is the assistant men’s crew coach for the Bulldogs.

“It was a little bit of a shock the way it ended up,” Gennaro said Wednesday while sitting in the Temple boathouse before practice. “But then it just becomes another race anyway. At that point, you can’t think about that stuff. It’s just racing.”

He said there was little conversation between brothers prior to the race, before they practiced “radio silence … just to stay out of each other’s hair.” Yale won the race for “a little bit” of bragging rights, Gennaro said, but nothing too bad.

Gennaro, of Havertown, is one of three returning members of the heavyweight eight seeking to repeat at the Jefferson Dad Vail Regatta, which runs Friday and Saturday on the Schuylkill River. The Owls won the event for the first time since 2004.

Gennaro, 22, grew up in rowing, noting he was 10 years old “or younger” when he started going to the river every weekend to watch his brothers. Bill, 32, a former Temple rower, is the head crew coach at Archbishop Carroll High School. Mike, 30, competed at Syracuse and was a member of six U.S. national teams, winning two gold medals at the 2011 Pan American Games and serving as an alternate on the 2012 U.S. Olympic team.

They have given Gennaro advice and guidance as he’s developed in the sport.

“It’s always nice,” he said. “I can always talk to them through good situations and bad situations. They’ve been through everything before and are still going through it as coaches now. So, it’s very helpful to have that kind of background that I can kind of use to help myself and my team.”

Temple men’s crew coach Brian Perkins said having such accomplished brothers accelerated Gennaro’s learning curve.

“It’s a lot of fun to work with guys like that,” Perkins said. “And being the baby of the family, we needle him a little bit, but he’s picking up the flame. He’s running with the torch a little bit, so that’s good.”

Perkins said he likes the way Gennaro has come on as the only senior in the heavyweight eight boat.

“I pulled him aside last year, when we had all those seniors, really motivated guys,” he said. “I told him, ‘Steve, your intensity level is not matching your teammates. Your teammates are really going after it. As one of the young guys in the boat, you have to match that.’

“This year I was afraid that he would get overwhelmed by the burden of being the only senior on the team. He has not. The junior leadership has stepped up and helped him out and just allowed Steve to be the rower that I’ve always wanted him to be. He’s gone after it every single practice this year, and I’m really happy to see that.”

Gennaro said his leadership has been aided by what he has seen with the Owls – an eighth-place finish two years ago in the Dad Vail’s glamour event, and the emotional victory last year.

“I do have a little bit of a different experience than everybody else,” he said, “and I just kind of do my best to kind of help these guys through different situations that may be tough but I’ve been through already and have seen the end of it.”

Gennaro, who will be in the No. 8 seat this year, admits it was “awesome” to win a year ago. But when asked about the Owls’ chances of repeating, he went low-key, almost mum, as if not to fire up other teams.

“It’s another weekend for us, another race,” he said. “We don’t approach it any differently. We’re just here to win, that’s all it is.”