By Tiffany Ayuda
What started just as an extracurricular activity became a career for P.J. Antonik. A University alumnus in 2002, Antonik graduated with a degree in video/television and a minor in music recording. However, it was the sport of rowing that ultimately made his life what it is now.
"I joined Hofstra Crew my second semester of junior year just as a recreational sport at first, but now I'm ranked nationally," said Antonik. Before Antonik joined the crew team at the University, he was president of Hofstra Concerts and was very involved in organizing and promoting events on campus.
Today, Antonik is managing a busy schedule of training for the U.S. National Crew Team, closing real estate deals and managing a rock band. Using his background in Hofstra Concerts, Antonik is managing Edison, a rock band that performs for troops overseas, for the past eight months. Antonik says he plans on touring with the band in five Air Force bases in Italy this December.
"It's really quite amazing how Hofstra Crew and Hofstra Concerts are my two jobs now and have nothing to do with my degree in video/television," said Antonik. "I can't stress the importance of getting involved in activities on campus enough. They opened so many opportunities for me."
But it is without a question that Antonik's passion is the sport of crew. After graduation, Antonik was accepted at the New York Athletic Club where he has been training since. When Antonik joined Hofstra Crew, the team was a very small group of nine people. He did strenuous and intense training to build his strength, power and technique in the water. Eventually, Antonik rose to become captain and coach of team by his senior year. He also started rowing a single, which is a one-person boat.
"I coached winter practices in the gym. I was a really bad coach, everyone hated me," said Antonik laughing. "I put them through really hard, intense workouts."Crew is a very demanding and competitive sport. It is a sport that requires a lot of commitment and patience. Erg pieces, workouts on the rowing machine, can be especially torturous. The indoor and outdoor training can become very frustrating, said Antonik.
"The human body is an amazing thing," said Antonik. "You'd be surprised how much you could push yourself. But I know training could be a really frustrating thing."
Antonik remembers being so frustrated from crew that he took a few months off from the sport. "I was so exhausted and bummed out. The training can be so exhaustive, demanding. I took it so seriously. I forgot how fun it was supposed to be. I remember after finishing an erg piece, I walked out of the gym, and I quit."
But after seven or eight months, Antonik decided to pick up the oar and start rowing again. Antonik promised himself that if he was not going to have fun with crew then he was not going to do it anymore. With the positive reinforcement and encouragement of his coach Mike Wagner, the advisor of Hofstra Crew, Antonik was able to hurdle through the mental breakdowns and train seriously.
"It's got to be fun. Instead of looking at erg pieces negatively, look at it positively and say maybe I can row one second lower this time. I remember rowing a piece, and I felt like my legs were going to fall off but I pulled even harder. I can't describe to you in words, it just becomes this out-of-body experience. It's amazing how much you could push yourself. Only someone in crew would understand. It's when you get to that point that it keeps you interested," said Antonik.
In a recent race at Princeton, Antonik finished ninth out of 51 nationally-ranked rowers in the country. As an NYAC athlete, Antonik won two national championships in 2005. He also won the gold in 2004 for the lightweight eight at the Head of the Charles- the biggest rowing competition in the world held in Boston each year, the Head of the Schuylkill in Connecticut and the Head of the Connecticut.
"I can't believe this is all happening to be honest," Antonik said. "To be ninth out of 51 rowers is huge. These guys are coming from Harvard and Yale, and have been rowing for at least 15 years. I have only been rowing for six years and seriously for three. But I owe a lot of it to Mike Wagner, who's been my coach for six years now. He knows how to push me and give me that encouragement to keep going. There are all these great coaches out there who have been rowing forever, but none of them compare to Mike. If I had to still choose [who] my coach is, it would be Mike Wagner without a question," said Antonik.
With such achievements, Antonik has come a long way from joining a club sport of nine people. He has changed the face of rowing for the Hofstra Crew team. With the right encouragement and coaching, Antonik was able to climb his way into the competitive sport of crew. Nowadays, Antonik is training to get into the U.S. Olympic Crew team- his ultimate goal. He and Coach Mike Wagner are constantly on the road to races and training. Without the support of his family, friends and coach, he would not be who he is today.
"The day I get into the Olympic team will be a day I will never forget. I don't know what I would do. Everyone in that team exactly remembers the day that he or she got into the U.S. Olympic Crew team, and not any other race they have rowed. It everyone's dream to be in the Olympics," Antonik said.