OHIO CITY, Oh - The Wildcat Navy continues to produce Division I student-athletes as their captain Ben Sommer commits to Columbia University. Sommer has been a Saint Ignatius Rowing team member for all four years. Through his years, he will continue his academic and athletic career at an Ivy League school at Columbia University.
Progression has been a keyword for the senior rower as he was close to quitting the sport in his sophomore year; however, a senior at the time, Eamon Coyne ‘20, encouraged Sommer to continue with the Wildcat Navy. Coyne is currently a member of St. Joseph’s University Rowing team.
“The beginning of my sophomore year, my passion for the sport began; freshman year, I was just going through the motions,” explains Sommer. “I even thought about quitting, but Eamon told me to keep up with the sport, that I could row in college and that is when I started going all in.”
Columbia University has a Saint Ignatius connection. The Associate Head Rowing Coach is Andrew Hess ‘08, the younger brother of current Saint Ignatius assistant rowing coach Mike Hess ‘07, making the decision much easier for Sommer. “I have known their assistant coach because of coach Hess, so we related because he is an alumnus of Saint Ignatius,” Sommer says. “Columbia has one of the best lightweight teams in the country, it’s a competitive team and I loved the campus.”
“It is a huge achievement; the Columbia Lightweights have won two of the last four National Championships,” says Head Rowing Coach Connor Walters ‘09. “He has earned that day in and day out; he is one of the hardest-working kids I have ever coached.”
Sommer notes the importance of attending an Ivy League college come next fall as Columbia is one of the top academic schools in the country. “Academics are essential for me and that was the biggest draw for me at Columbia,” says Sommer. “I’m undecided right now in my major, but they have one of the best academic programs in the country.”
Rowing can sometimes be a grueling process to improve year in and year out, but Sommer has done just that and the coaches noticed. “I remember when he was a sophomore, it was my first season, he was in our fourth Varsity 8+, he was disappointed and asked what he could do to be better,” explains Walters. “We told him to focus on technique, continue time on the rowing machine and build power and he did it all at 100%. The kid has done all the work himself.”
“I have set goals for myself each year to improve,” says Sommer. “Sophomore year I wanted to be the fastest in my class, junior year I wanted to be the fastest on the team and now this year I want to focus on making others faster.”
Sommer was able to take part in the National Championship last season and was one of his favorite experiences with the Wildcat Navy. “That was a memorable experience, it was raining and the conditions were terrible,” Sommer explains. “We just trudged through and we ended with a decent result placing seventh. I remember sitting in a medical tent because I was so cold, but looking back, that was such a great experience.”
Before Sommer heads to Columbia in the fall, he and the Wildcats will look to impress on the water this season, looking to take home a Midwest and National Championship. “We want to win the Midwest,” says Sommer. “We like to get the Midwest trophy where every boat counts for points.”