Really, Nick Herceg couldn't go out any better. He is truly finishing up his splendid rowing career with a splash. The Drexel University senior from Haddon Township High School will row for the Dragons in the International Rowing Association national championships this weekend.
The Drexel men's rowing team qualified as a team for the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) National Championships on Lake Natoma in Sacramento, California.
“I'm just approaching it like it's a really lucky thing for us,” Herceg said. “The last three years we've gone because it's been at Mercer County Park in New Jersey and it was up in the air that we were going, but we worked very hard to get there.”
The Dragons will send four boats to compete at the national championships – the varsity eight, second varsity eight, third varsity eight and varsity four.
Herceg will be racing in the Drexel varsity four. He will be in the boat with some familiar South Jersey faces - Zach Seither, a junior from St. Augustine Prep and Kyle Hershman, a junior from Absegami.
“This is going to be the first time rowing in the four for me,” said Herceg, who primarily rowed in the second varsity eight this season. “Every other time I've raced there it's been in the third varsity eight, so it's a new experience for me.
“I haven't done a lot four racing in my senior year, but to be honest I'm excited.”
Last year, Herceg rowed in the third varsity eight in the championships at Mercer County Park.
This is the sixth year in a row the Dragons have qualified as a team for the IRAs.
“I do see it as my last competitive race in college, but it's weird because I really haven't had the chance to think about it,” Herceg said. “It's happening so fast. Up until the morning of Dad Vail, we didn't even know if we were going.”
Drexel claimed the automatic qualifier at the Dad Vail Regatta with the varsity eight gold medal.
The Dragons won the overall Dad Vail team title for the fifth straight season.
Last season at IRAs, the varsity eight finished 20th overall. The second varsity eight and the third varsity eight -with Herceg – finished 18th and 16th overall, respectively.
“Now that this is my last race, it does feel different, but no matter what I'll be racing Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” Herceg said.
“No matter what happens will be racing a heat and the final whether it's a first second or third level final we will be racing,” Herceg added.
“But Sunday will be a flurry of emotions and I really can't process it right now.
In the fall, Herceg sat bow in the second varsity eight B’s that took first at the Frostbite Regatta. He also competed in the varsity four E at the Rutgers Fall Classic.
As a junior, Herceg was named to the IRA All-Academic team. He sat bow in the third varsity eight that won the silver medal at Dad Vail and competed in the third varsity eight that finished 20th in the country at the IRA National Championships.
The 6-foot Herceg rowed primarily with the fours as a sophomore and finished second to Temple at the Bergen Cup with the second varsity four.
Herceg won the bronze medal rowing bow for the freshmen four at Dad Vail. He won the gold medal with the freshmen eight at the Knecht Cup and rowed bow in the freshmen four boat that finished second at the Kerr Cup. He was a member of the third varsity eight that finished 18th overall at the IRA National Championships.
Herceg, a four-year member of Haddon Township’s rowing team, was a three-time Garden State Champion in men’s junior varsity four (2011), men’s junior varsity two(2012) and the men’s varsity four (2013). He was the Hawks two-time Varsity Rower of the Year recipient.
The future promises to be a splash for Herceg as well.
“I just accepted a job at Villanova University in their intramural sports department,” said Herceg, the son of Annette and Jason, who majored in sport management.
But first the biggest race of his life.
“I never thought I would get here coming out of high school,” Herceg said. “I didn't even know if I could make a D-1 program. The fact that I got offered a place here and since I've been here we've become a top 20 program has become an incredible thing and something I will never forget.”
That's because Herceg earned this row into the sunset.