SARASOTA — Victor Garguan didn’t know what to expect when he arrived at Blackburn Point Park for the first time last fall.
At the time, the then 17-year-old had never heard of rowing and wasn’t particularly interested in joining the Sarasota Scullers. But, after meeting a team parent during an orientation session at Suncoast Polytechnical High, Garguan decided to give the sport a try.
It had been several years since Garguan had participated in athletics; and after realizing the time commitment rowers must put in, he didn’t anticipate staying with the program for more than a couple weeks.
But that was before Garguan met coach Alex Dragos and went out onto the water for the first time. Garguan, who was born and raised in Moldavia, connected with Dragos, a native of Romania.
Garguan decided to stick with rowing, and it wasn’t long before he developed a passion for the sport.
“I like the atmosphere,” Garguan says. “I have great coaches who have helped me so much. Everyone supports each other. I look forward to going there every day.”
Garguan grew up playing soccer — the most popular sport in Moldavia. Garguan spent three to four hours every day after school on the soccer field playing pickup games with his friends.
Garguan, who played goalie, continued to play soccer until moving to the United States seven years ago. He continued to play soccer briefly before turning his attention to other American interests.
“I had a lot of distractions, like computers,” Garguan said.
Garguan shied away from athletics until joining the Sarasota Scullers last fall. Since then, Garguan has become one of the Scullers’ most dedicated rowers.
“Personally, it really came easy to me,” Garguan said. “I enjoy the technique and the work that you put in. Once you start, you can’t stop. It’s hard to try and stop because (you always want) to improve. If you win one race, then you want that feeling to continue.”
This summer, Garguan helped lead the Scullers men’s four with coxswain to a pair of second-place finishes at the state and regional championships, earning a berth in the national championships.
“It’s really hard to explain,” Garguan said. “The boat was amazing. At the time, it didn’t feel like we were going that fast. Everyone in the boat gave it their all, and I’m really proud of what we did.”
Today, Garguan practices five days a week from 3:45 to 6:15 p.m. and will add a sixth day of practice to his schedule later this fall.
There was a point when Garguan wasn’t sure rowing would be for him; but with the support of his parents, who watch their son row when they can, Garguan stuck with it. He couldn’t be happier.
“It makes me nervous, but I like it more,” Garguan said. “It motivates me to do better. They urged me to stay with it. It’s because of them that I still row.”
Now with his senior season upon him, Garguan is focused on helping lead the Scullers back to the national championships and earning a college scholarship. Garguan already has garnered the attention of coaches from several colleges, including Fairfield University, Northeastern University and the University of Washington, among others.
“I’m really not sure what to expect,” Garguan said. “I’ve (heard) how exciting Division I is. I just want to have the best time there as possible.”
In addition to preparing for rowing, Garguan also has been preparing for the upcoming presidential election after becoming a U.S. citizen Aug. 26.
“It was very exciting after having spent the past seven years living in the U.S.,” Garguan said of obtaining his citizenship.
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