1951 Season

Norm Sonju
Norm Sonju
  Beau Hoopman
Duane Daentl
 Results | Summary | Photos | W Winners 

Season Results

Eastern Sprints DNP

Season Summary

Man alive what a victory that was for Wisconsin. That's one of the biggest things in the school's history… Brother that baby echoed around the world. Here's a salute to the Coach, the Crew and the Coxswain. I'll give them 21 guns, that's the limit.

Wisconsin State Journal , June 17, 1951

Some time in the fall, “Old Nero,” a training barge was destroyed on purpose by freshman coach Dick Tipple. The 18-year-old barge hardly floated through the two weeks the freshmen used it this past fall and would never have seen another season. Originally built for 16 men, it was reduced to 12 when one end gave out prematurely. Two new eight-oared plywood barges are planned for the frosh. ‘Well done - but good riddance,' say the thousand men Old Nero has served. She is mourned by none.

November 4, interclass crew races were scheduled.

November 14, the first fall practice windup banquet was held with over 60oarsmen in attendance. Attendees included AD Guy Sundt, 80-year old Walter Alexander (Captain in 1896), Walter Hirshberger (1899 on the “Berry Crate” crew) and Joe Steinauer, swimming coach and former crew trainer.

April 1, the Badger crew worked out on the Yahara River as spring approached.

April 11, UW's crews hit the water nine days ahead of last year, but five days later than the average opening date of April 6 th ; the crew had been working on Lake Monona since March 15.

Former UW (1940-43 and 1945-46) and Yale (1947-50) coach Allen “Skip” Walz was named as referee and starter for the Yale-UW races. A reunion dinner was planned for May 4 at the Memorial Union for oarsmen who rowed under Walz.

The ditty below appeared before the Wisconsin-Yale race:

I’d like to be a coxswain,
A-yellin’ out the beat;
A master of eight behemoths
While in the driver’s seat.

Catch no crabs, number six,
Stretch, you lazy goat!
Feather that oar there, seven

A good big man can lick
A good little man any day?
Here biggie takes a beating
With not a word to say.

- Will Rowe

On May 5, in Wisco's only home appearance, UW faced Yale. Both the Yale and UW coaches agreed upon Allen “Skip” Walz as referee and starter: Walz formerly coached rowing at both Wisconsin and Yale. UW's varsity ( 9:25 ) lost to Yale ( 9:16 ) by 2¾ lengths on a 1¾ -mile wind-swept course on Lake Monona , which started at the Yahara River and ended at Broome Street . UW jumped off to a one-yard lead at the start, was a half length behind at the quarter mile mark and twice that at the half mile. Yale's oarsmen had to dip into their own pockets to make the costly round-trip air trip. They were housed in the new university short-course dorms, which were judged “very comfortable and we certainly appreciate it,” according to Yale coach Jimmy Rathschmidt. Badger rower Bob Espeseth remembers Yale's coxswain in 1949 and 12951 was Pat Noonan.

UW's frosh ( 5:57 ) defeated St. John's Military Academy ( 6:12 ) over a one-mile course in their first event of the year.

Departing by the Chicago , Milwaukee and St. Paul train from the Washington Avenue station, Thursday May 10 at 11:25 AM , the UW crew arrived in Harlem , NY Friday morning at 8:47AM . Sleeping accommodations were in the Kings Hotel on the Columbia campus.

On May 12, on a 1¾ miles course on the Harlem River in New York City , UW appeared for the first time in New York City on a placid river. Viewers watched from the railed promenade along the Harlem . UW's varsity (9:12.3) eight, which led all the way, defeated Columbia (9:14.2) by ½ length and Rutgers (9:22) by more. UW's boating: Bill Barrett (bow), Pete Wackman, Bob Roehrs, Victor Steuck, James Moran, Bob Espeseth, Jim Schmidt, Bob Nelson (stroke) and Duane Daentl (cox). Dinner after the race was at the Phi Gamma Delta Club of New York at 106 West 56 th Street in New York , probably arranged by UW rowing alum, Paul Eckhardt. On June 14, Thornley Wood, Columbia 's Assistant to the Athletic Director, returned coxswain Daentl's forgotten megaphone.

In the jayvee event over the same distance, Columbia (8:53.2) - which the Wisconsin Athletic Review of 1951 notes is “due to tide difference” on the Harlem River - won by 1 ¼ lengths over Wisconsin (8:57.6) and Rutgers (9:22), whose No. 6 broke an oar. “Our boys rowed in borrowed shells and both crews (varsity and jayvee) rowed good races considering the miles they had under their belts up to that point. New UW Athletic Director Guy M. Sundt, succeeding Harry Stuhldreher, made the trip to New York City with our crews on May 12. He watched the practice and the race from one of Columbia 's launches (they have four). He honored us with his presence at the Crew Dinner held at the Phi Gamma Delta Club in New York City the evening of the regatta.”

Also on May 12, on Lake Nagawicka in Delafield , Wisconsin , the UW frosh ( 5:40 ) repeated their earlier win, this time by 2 ½ lengths, over St. John's Military Academy ( 5:44 ) over a one mile course.

At 9:30AM on May 19, over a mile course on Lake Mendota , the UW freshmen ( 5:33 ) defeated Chicago 's Lincoln Park Boat Club by ½ length. A half-hour later, the Badger varsity and junior varsity also raced one another on this same day.

Following the race, Purdue's intramural crew, having practiced at home on the Wabash River in a shell loaned by UW, were guests in UW's shells for a lesson from Coach Sonju. That afternoon, the Purdue Boilermakers, who had been visiting Madison to watch the May 19 races, were invited to row in two new shells intermixed with Wisconsin rowers. Purdue were being encouraged by Sonju and UW to form a varsity collegiate crfew team.

On May 23, the varsity took the Chicago , Milwaukee and St. Paul railroad to Chicago, then United Airlines #643 to San Francisco airport. On May 26 on the Oakland Estuary near Oakland , CA , “a swift tide, a slight wind and a closely following UW crew pushed the Cal Bears to its finest race of the season, to a three mile course record. Three mile races were first held on the Estuary in 1911. The winning Cal time of 14:26 was two seconds Washington 's mark in 1941, the best previous performance on the Bears home waters.” UW (14:30.2), rowing in the Bear Marauder , lost by a length.

“The Bear Jayvees were wicked.” UW's JV-8 ( 15:48 ), rowing in the borrowed Pacifica , lost to California ( 15:02 ) by 11 ½ lengths on the same three mile course and (thus) did not compete at Marietta . “ Wisconsin had two bad breaks. At the two-mile mark, No. 5 seat Bob Roehrs caught a crab, the oar handle flying over his head and the mishap stopping the boat. To cap this, their coxswain called th boat to a halt a stroke short of the finish line.”

Patrick O'Dea, UW football great in the late 1890's, headed the welcoming committee in Oakland and guided the oarsmen to a tour of San Francisco .

Also on May 26, the UW freshmen ( 5:40 ) defeated Culver Military Academy ( 5:47 ) on Lake Mendota over a one mile course.

At the IRA's:

To get to Marietta, UW hired the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul railroad train, including several “horse cars” which were rail cars with entry doors in the rear, rather than on the side, so the 60 foot shells could be loaded onto the train. The coach's launch was also loaded onto one of these especially-chartered “horse cars.” On the way down in 1951, substitute UW cox, Don Rose slept in the coach's launch as an unofficial member of the entourage. Going into this Marietta Regatta, UW had come in second five times - in 1898, 1899, 1902, 1912 and 1924.

Penn, which had violated a TV moratorium of the Eastern Collegiate Athletic conference and had been declared “a member not in good standing,” was ultimately allowed to compete in the IRA Regatta in Marietta by the IRA stewards.

To facilitate watching a boat race for the entire length of the course, a special bleacher-equipped observation train of forty cars was organized to follow all three races. The train was operated by the Marietta B & O railroad. Tickets were $5.50 per person

Wisconsin's Varsity eight won its first IRA title on a course just under 2 miles in Marietta, Ohio . Time: 7:50.5, a record.

Headlined “Wisconsin Crew First,” the New York Times continued:

Wisconsin Varsity Beats Favored Washington on Swollen Ohio…Over the shortened two-mile course on the swollen Ohio River, the University of Wisconsin won the big race in the forty-ninth regatta of the Intercollegiate Rowing Association today, the first varsity eight from the Middle West ever to show the way to the East and almost invincible crews from the Pacific Coast.

“National Collegiate Rowing Championships - Men's Titles,” Wisconsin 1999-2000 Men's and Women's Intercollegiate Rowing, UW Athletic Department's Sports Information Office, p. 13.

The unforeseen victory of the powerful, short-swinging Badgers was as conclusive as the fact that the regatta will not return to Marietta after the day's series of mishaps on a river out of control for most of the week. The sinking of two Navy shells, the junior varsity and the plebe eights, and the breaking of the Princeton junior varsity rudder, turned the afternoon into a nightmare for the referee, Clifford Goes.

The unfortunate accidents to two of the East's best made it inevitable that the regatta would be held elsewhere in 1952. Last year, too, when the races were transferred here from Poughkeepsie , their venue since 1895, the distance had to be shortened because of flood water for the first time in history.

By a length and a quarter and in the extremely fast time of 7:50.5, Wisconsin (in lane 5) got home ahead of the University of Washington's (in lane 7) defending champions, with Princeton coming in a close third. Norman Sanju's Badgers drew even with Washington a quarter mile from the start, took the lead a half-mile farther on and stayed there, going steadily away.

It was a day of rare adversity for Washington , which swept all three races a year ago for the fourth time since 1936. Al Ulbrickson's Huskies from Seattle finished second to California by a quarter length in the junior varsity race, in which Columbia was an unexpected third and Cornell fourth. ( Wisconsin had no entry in the junior varsity race and Navy did not finish). In this JV race, Navy's shell hit a submerged object. The boat spun around and started to swamp and as it did so it struck the Princeton shell, snapping off the rudder. So the Middies were knocked out of the race and Princeton was practically eliminated. The Tigers pluckily refused to quit. Their coxswain, Carl Lyle, steered the shell with his hand in the water and Princeton rowed all the way, finishing last behind Penn and Marietta , a newcomer to the regatta.

But at least the Huskies carried off the freshman honors by a quarter of a length. They just made it ahead of a surprising MIT, which led by a full length and a quarter a mile from the finish. Navy was third and Princeton , Columbia , Cornell and Wisconsin followed as darkness settled upon the debris-swept Ohio.

In what Stan Pocock admits is his ‘unvarnished' account of the IRA's in Marietta in 1951 he writes,

Conditions on race day were insane. The Ohio was on a rampage, with every piece of flotsam and jetsam from upstate Ohio and beyond in a mad dash for the Gulf of Mexico . All the stake boats were washed away again (like last year). The huge navigation buoys that they had been attached to were thrashing about madly. Still not admitting their stupidity, officials insisted that the races must go on - doubtless a concession to the crowds packed aboard the train and massed along the banks.

The Wisconsin varsity pulled a fast one and jumped the gun. For years we had a picture hanging in the shellhouse of the start of that race. The Wisconsin boat was a full length ahead of the other crews, none of whom even had their oars in the water. Aided by that head start, the Badgers won. Our cox'n should have been on his toes. One must never just sit there at the starting line, hoping to hear the starting command. If he hears or sees another crew take off ahead of the starting signal can be penalized, on that day all the crews could have jumped the gun no worries. As it was, the Huskies came in second.

Both Bob Hood and Duane Daentl dispute there was a jump in 1951. Independently, they both admit to at least a ‘slight' jump in 1950, but not in 1951. Daentl also tells of his having experimented on the swollen course the morning before and again late morning the same day. He and Coach Sonju took a boat into the middle of the course and, using wood chips, tested to see where in the current the water was fastest. They found the middle of the river was a bit quicker. As there were no lane markers on the raging river, which Daentl actually thought was a bit dangerous, Wisconsin , once clear of the second boat, angled as nimbly as possible to the middle of the river and the fastest water.

The Cincinnati Post's account read:

Wisconsin 's bucolic boatload upset the finest college oarsmen of two U.S. seaboards in the Marietta Regatta Saturday. ‘We're just a bunch of farmers,' Coach Norman Sonju, of Wisconsin , told reporter after one of last week's workouts. If favored Washington , California , Princeton or Pennsylvania were unimpressed, they should have listened while Sonju added, 'But we're better than last year.'

Last year Wisconsin placed third. In Saturday's two-mile race the Badgers were ready with five men, including the coxswain, who had been varsity at Marietta in '50. Three other oars were manned by men who had been in the freshman race here. And No. 5 was Jim Moran, who had competed at Poughkeepsie in '48.

Wisconsin was the only middlewestern entry in the varsity Saturday, and it is the only middlewestern school ever to win the regatta of the Intercollegiate Rowing Association.

‘Farmer boys make the best crew men for us at Wisconsin,' Sonju said. ‘They're best because they're used to hard work. So most of our good ones are farm kids.' Today the permanent plaque outside the Marietta boathouses is ready to receive the names of the Wisconsin boys.

Wisconsin won by a length and a quarter over Washington . Aided by a six-mile-an-hour current, the new champion was timed in 7:50.5 - 17 seconds faster than Washington 's winning effort last year.

The Navy had its worst luck since Pearl Harbor . The midshipmen damaged or sank three of their shells. Their freshman had to borrow a boat from Marietta . The Navy's JV shell collided with Princeton and sheared off the latter's rudder. Princeton finished with the coxswain using his hands to steer. After completing the race the Princeton shell sank and its members had to swim ashore.

The unreliable river conditions which marred the 1950race were here again. There were a few who could laugh at the Ohio 's naughtiness. ‘I clocked a log three times this morning before I found out it wasn't my crew,' said Coach Jim Nesworthy of Boston University .

During training, one crew was preparing to dock when a warning came from the bank: ‘Watch out for that log downstream of your bow.' Back came a reply from the shell, ‘That's not a log, it's a house.'

Aaron E. Loney, reporting on the front page of the Sports Section, wrote, “ Wisconsin 's hard-stroking Badgers, battling a debris-strewn, cantankerous Ohio river and 11 of the nation's top varsity crews, struck it rich for former gold miner Coach Norm Sonju.”

Daentl described Coach Sonju as a good coach. “He chewed me out when he should have. And he had an ability to laugh, even at himself at times. He taught me an awful lot about crew. He was strict in his detail of how he wanted the stroke - the catch, the release…every part of the stroke.”

UW's freshmen (8:20.4) place 7 th behind Washington (8:05.4) at Marietta 's two mile course for freshmen boats. A crowd of 500 met the Badger's train at the West Side Milwaukee depot.

When the UW crew arrived home Monday on the sleek Hiawatha train into the St. Paul station on the West Side of Milwaukee, several hundred spectators greeted them, as did a pep band rounded up by bandleader Ray Dvorak which broke into an enthusiastic rendition of “There'll be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight.”

Three of Coach Sonju's crew were later named to the All-American crew: Duane Daentl (Cox), James Moran (No. 5) and Vic Steuck (rowed at No. 4, though was announced at 6). Harvard had two oarsmen on the first team, with Cal , Washington and Princeton with one each; UW had three - the steersman and two in the ‘engine room.' The selection was announced by Royal Brougham, sports editor of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer . Brougham consulted with the nationa's top coaches in order to make the decision.


  1951 UW Varsity Class Age Height Weight
Bow Delos W. Barrett ‘52 21 6'1” 160
2 Robert G. Hood ‘53 20 6'2” 180
3 James A. Schmidt ‘53 19 6'3” 180
4 Victor H. Steuck ‘53 21 6'3” 190
5 James T. Moran ‘53 21 6'4” 193
6 Robert D. Espeseth ‘52 21 6'4” 183
7 James C. Healy ‘53 19 6'0” 165
Stroke Peter H. Wackman ‘51 23 5'11” 178
Cox R. Duane Daentl ‘51 20 5'5” 125
    Average   6'0” 179


Healy, a two-time state shotput champion, did not row his senior year.

In the IRA's, Coach Sonju made the decision of substituting Peter Wackman for R.Y. Nelson as stroke in the varsity eight. The change was apparently one Sonju method for trying to put a change of chemistry and spark into the boat. The absence from UW's first winning varsity eight boating was a life-long disappointment for R. Y. Nelson.

July 13, 1951 , the Milwaukee “W” Club, in its Annual Outing on the Steinmetz Golf Course in Lake Okauchee , honored the 1952 IRA champion crew.

What makes a good coxswain:

From coxing and coaching crew, I can tell a good coxswain by how he lands the boat. If he is able to land the boat without one or more of the 4 or 8 rowers turning back to see where how the boat is docking, he's a good coxswain. With the right coxswain, the rowers never turn around to look. They have an unconscious confidence in the coxswain's knowing what he's doing.

Another measure is how they handle tough situations. Some coxes were initially boated before me, but I jumped ahead of them because I could deal with difficult situations. For one thing, don't panic if you get a little behind.

I also like to talk to the competitor crews. I'd often say, ‘I've got their three seat, give me their two.' The chatter inspired our guys and got the other team's rowers looking around, taking their mind of their race.

Boat sense was important. During the summer, I'd often take out a single. It gave me the idea of how to feel the boat…what it should look like along the water. I found it easier to coach the guys in the boat when I knew boats. Id' sometimes go out in the pickle boat to learn more about rowing. Also, coxes are smaller. Many don't see so well around the big rowers. ‘You have to bother to look.' And of course you have to steer a straight course.

I also looked at every practice as if a race. I wouldn't get fired up just on race day, but every day at practice.

- Duane Daentl telephone interview, November 17, 2000.



UW crosses finish at IRA

UW crosses finish at IRA


Duane Daentl with IRA trophy

Duane Daentl with IRA trophy


Wisco beats Columbia
May 21, 1951

Wisco beats Columbia


Wisco Scenes
1952 IRA Program

1952 IRA Program


Varsity 8

Varsity 8


V8 Cox Daentl thrown in water

V8 Cox Daentl thrown in water


Return from IRA win

Return from IRA win


1951 Team

1951 Team


Marietta, OH course

Marietta, OH course


Mareitta Ohio course
1951 IRA Program

Marietta Ohio Course


Loss to California

Loss to California


Frosh at IRA

Back row, L. to R:.

John R. James (Bow)
Robert Gardiner (No. 2)
Dave E. Moran (No. 3)
Virgil F. Trummer (No. 4)
James H. Lorenzen (No. 5)
John L. Obourn (No. 6)
John S. Liesman (No. 7)
Allen B. Wheeler (Stroke)

Front row, L. to R:

Alex W. Klockner (Subs.)
James K. Winslow (Cox)
Sielaff (Richard H. Oehler not pictured?)

Frosh at IRA

Cox Duane Daentl and Coach Sonju

Cox Duane Daentl and Coach Sonju


Cox Daentl with IRA V8 shirts won


Cox Daentl with IRA V8 shirts won


Various Pictures from 1951

Various Pictures from 1951


Bill Sachs, Coach Sonju and Harry Mussman



Delos Barrett
Rollin B. Cooper
Roy Duane Daentl
Robert Espeseth, Sr.
James C. Healy
Frank Heuston
Donald G. Heyden
Robert G. Hood
Duane W. Hopp
James B. Langdon
James T. Moran
Robert Y. ("R.Y.") Nelson
Robert D. Roehrs
Donald L. Rose
John L. Schlick
James A. Schmidt
Victor H. Steuck
Michael B. Torphy, Jr.
James L. Van Egeren
Peter Wackman


return to top

contact the webmaster