Sporting a hint of humility through his baritone voice, Daniel Abecia admits that his senior crew season didn’t quite go as planned. While Abecia downplayed the disappointment over the phone late Monday evening, he still spoke proudly of his modest four-year career as a rower on Washington-Lee’s illustrious crew program.
During a typical practice midway through the season, and days after a poor performance in the Charlie Butt Regatta, named after the famed Washington-Lee coach and the catalyst for building the Generals program, Abecia knew something was awry.
In his second year on the boys varsity eight boat, Abecia was on the bow, typically reserved for the most technical rower and the main one responsible for maintaining balance and direction. The team was struggling internally, grasping desperately to try to maintain their breakthrough 2007 performance when the boat surprisingly finished third at the Virginia State Regatta.
But during the practice Abecia, one of five returning rowers from the 2007 squad, couldn’t get comfortable. Hours later, he was diagnosed with testicular torsion, a painful medical emergency prevalent in adolescents. The freak injury, known as the “winter syndrome,” is when the spermatic cord that provides the blood supply to a testicle is twisted cuts off the blood supply. Abecia underwent successful emergency surgery and was shelved for six weeks, thus unexpectedly ending his crew career.
“It was a sense of helplessness and a bit of nostalgia,” said Abecia. “I realized how much crew had become a part of me. I’ve been doing it since eighth grade with the same guys, who had become my best friends. I felt like I betrayed them in some way. It was rough.”
The team was forced to adjust by calling up another rower from the second varsity eight team, who then had to be replaced by a kid from the third team and so forth.
“Because of [my injury], they had to reseat everybody,” Abecia said. “It was a domino effect on the whole team and I felt the blame.”
But while he may have internalized the guilt, Abecia still had a standout season, setting personal records of just over seven minutes in individual 2k races. He may row at the University of Virginia, where he’s headed to next season, but also spoke frankly about expectations away from the Potomac River.
“They are like a little bit of a legitimate cult,” Abecia said.
Abecia, who is of Brazilian decent, also swam for four years, though he admits it was just to stay in shape for crew. In the National District meet, the Washington-Lee boys finished sixth (out of seven), but the four-year swimmer placed. His finished 16th in the 100-meter breaststroke (1:20.93), contributing a single individual point. As a junior, he was the second leg of the 200-meter medley relay and 400-meter freestyle relay.
“I was never the star,” Abecia admitted. “That ship has sailed.”
He does enjoy soccer, and taught himself tennis, and both are potential sports that he’s eyeing on the club level in college.
<b>SETTLING ON</b> U-Va. wasn’t easy for the recent Washington-Lee grad that touted almost a 4.2 grade point average. As one of the 56 international baccalaureate students and the vice president of the school’s National Honor Society, Abecia had to balance a rigorous class schedule with multiple sports.
Academics were the biggest part of high school for me,” Abecia said. “I was with a bunch of people that were as intellectually stimulated as I am.”
Advanced physics and calculus classes were the norm, and it reaped rewards when he was admitted to George Washington and William & Mary with financial aid incentive-based packages. But Abecia connected with Charlottesville and the Cavaliers and will start classes in the fall.
“I see a road ahead and it’s a potentially bright future, but looking back, it’s also emotional,” Abecia said upon reflecting on his recent graduation. “It’s difficult to explain. There was a lot of blood, sweat and tears, lots of joy and laughter. It’s multi-faceted. I can definitely say that so far, high school has been the best time of my life.”