After five years as head coach of UMW’s varsity men’s and women’s crew teams, Philip Schmehl is resigning from his position.
During Schmehl’s tenure as head coach, Mary Washington’s rowers received national rankings, had an All-American on the women’s team twice and saw the men’s team race in the Dad Vail National Championships and in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association Nationals.
Schmehl has lead the women’s team to the top position in the Mid Atlantic region and the 2006-07 the women’s team raced in the NCAA Championships for the first time in school history, where they placed seventh.
Schmehl has played a major role in bringing a sport that began as a club at Mary Washington in 1976 to becoming a varsity program with a top national ranking.
“[Coach Schmehl] has really stepped up fund raising, increased amount of boats in the program and has intensified recruitment efforts to get experienced rowers from the high school level on the team,” Athletic Director Ed Hegmann said.
Crew has been a part of Schmehl’s life for a long time. He rowed on Bucknell University’s team for four years and was president of the crew club during his senior year. He has gained nine career medals and was named to the U.S. Rowing team’s second team honor roll.
Schmehl made the decision to resign from his position at UMW after his wife was offered a professorship at another university, and the family needed to move.
“One of the main things [Coach Schmehl] always told us was ‘family first, then academics, then crew,” junior rower Karolyn Milton said. “That he’s following what he teaches is good for the team.”
Schmehl is sorry to leave the program he has done so much for, and that he says has done much for him.
“I’ve learned more from the rowers than they’ve probably learned from me. I’ve grown immensely from my time here. I feel very privileged to have worked with them,” Schmehl said.
He says one of the highlights of his time at Mary Washington was taking a team of eight to the NCAA Championships in 2007. Although he coached the team, he said, “I really feel like it was more the rowers taking me along for the ride.”
Sophomore rower Stephanie Lefferts said that when the crew program was almost cut two years ago due to budget constraints and no place for the team to row, Schmehl was vital in getting the program back.
“Coach Schmehl worked tirelessly to get it back, raising money and doing everything he could think of to raise funds and find a place to row,” Lefferts said. “He worked with the athletic directors and has done so much for the team. [He’s] looking out for everyone.”
While Milton, Lefferts, and the entire team are saddened to see Schmehl go, they know he has been working to find an excellent replacement for his position.
“All of us on the team are mentally prepared for a change in coaching, and hopefully the transition will be smooth,” says Milton
Lefferts feels the same and says, “It’s been a great experience. Everyone is going to miss him a lot.”
According to Hegmann, the athletic department has already begun a national search for Coach Schmehl’s replacement. Candidates will be visiting campus by the end of April, and the new crew coach should be selected by the first week of May.