Alumni Feature: John Misey ('20)
John Misey ('20) this season had a stellar performance, winning medals at Head of the Charles and Head of the Hooch and being undefeated in the Men's 8 and the Men's 4. We recently had an opportunity to talk with John about his time at Miami University, Vanderbilt University, rowing, and his plans for the future.
How long have you been rowing for and what crews have you been a part of?
Milwaukee Rowing Club from 2013-2016
Miami University Rowing Club from 2016-2019
Vanderbilt Rowing since 2020
Milwaukee School of Engineering 2017.
Undine Barge Club of Philadelphia in 2018
Oklahoma City National High Performance Center in 2019
In particular, I identify the most with the guys at Undine, Miami, and Vanderbilt. Undine was very special to me as it was my first time in a serious high performance program. Everyone at the boathouse was locked into maximizing our time on the water or erg, and wanted to compete at a very high level. But, the friendships I made there are very meaningful, I still stay in touch with the guys today, and would like to return to Philadelphia long-term in the future.
Miami is where I transformed myself and began to plaster my name all over the erg record board as both a lightweight and heavyweight. I also made several of my closest friends here, learned to scull, and I put a lot of blood sweat and tears into being Captain of the Men’s team.
Vanderbilt is special to me since while it's still a collegiate club, it has a very competitive vibe. We've got four men's coaches who are all incredibly qualified and insightful. And as a result of going through all this, our men's team, despite its small size, is incredibly close knit.
How would you describe your experience while a part of the Miami University Rowing Club, both as a rower and previous Captain of the team?
I would describe my experience at Miami as tough but fulfilling. As any collegiate team coach would tell you, culture is key. When I joined the team, I knew myself to be out of shape. I found a lot of support from my teammates, especially Joe Converse, Michael Johnston, and Jordan Cameron. Through the training programs at Miami, I became quite physically fit.
I started to take on a leadership role in 2017 as the Safety Chair. I was elected Men's Captain for 2018 and 2019 seasons. It was very challenging, especially in 2018 when I made the most substantial changes to the program trying to improve performance. That year we had a small team with very limited experience and guidance.
Our executive board was very united in wanting to move the program back in a more competitive direction like the early 2010s, when the team won big name regattas like HOOCH. We did better that spring at MACRA, improving in placement in every event. The men's team medaled at HOTO the next fall in 2018 in the men's heavy eight, which undoubtedly was the high point of my undergraduate rowing career.
That spring was a bit more challenging, we lost a few key rowers, had a new exec group, erg season got on people's nerves, and we had some boating issues among other things. I developed some mental health issues that spring, which was compounded with my experience in OKC that summer. As a result, I was incapable of rowing on the team or providing effective leadership for fall. I consequently stepped down for fall to focus on the mental health treatment I needed, but loved the support I received from my teammates, who really helped me out in a tough time in which I would later return in the Fall of 2019.
What does your typical day look like as a collegiate rower while continuing your education in law at the graduate level at Vanderbilt? How does this compare or differ from your time at Miami?
Oh man. I wake up at 4:30 for a 5:20 a.m. practice, spend 10 minutes getting ready, then drive to pick up others, and head to the lake where I get oars/lights and ready. We send it till about 7:40, and return in time for 8:30 a.m. classes. Then I'm either in class or at the library. For reference, this is not a "go to King and talk with friends library", this is the "dead silent dirty looks if you talk with someone for more than 15 seconds" kind of library. About twice a week I have an extra workout, either the mandatory 12k, or extra steady state I do to improve my endurance. At 5'10" and 167lb, I am severely undersized against several 6'4" 195lb teammates who would otherwise demolish my erg scores. I'll eat after, review notes from class, do more readings or create class outlines, and go to sleep around 11 p.m.
In contrast, at Miami I had priority scheduling from the honors program, so many AP credits I could take 12 hours a semester and graduate on time, and finances were not a concern due to my scholarship. I'd wake up around 6:45, drive to the boathouse, get in a 80-120 minute steady state in the single or by running, make it to my 10:50 classes, and then run the team practice in the p.m., and probably get a lift in at some point 3x a week as well, then sleep by 9 p.m. It’s a lot less volume nowadays; I simply have a lot less time to train now as I did at Miami.
Do you find it hard to balance your time and energy between rowing and academics? Are there any activities that help ground you outside of the sport?
Yeah, uh, law school and rowing at the same time is quite literally hell. The training here is brutal, and law school is notoriously competitive. Outside of law school and rowing, I ground myself via religion, my relationship with my girlfriend, and cooking. I've been emphatically catholic since I started attending mass more on my own volition junior year at Miami and joined a small faith group at St. Mary's, and this has continued to law school. Since both my parents met via Vanderbilt's catholic group, I find a lot of extra meaning in attending mass at the same church my parents met, or sometimes where I was baptized as a child. Of course, this goes beyond various diocese sponsored outreach programs I participate in.
I started dating my girlfriend KayLee Steiner October 4th last year, who I met on the rowing team. She's completing a PhD in Cancer Biology at Vanderbilt and has the same COVID extended eligibility as I do, having previously rowed at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). She's a genius, can surprisingly tolerate all my nonstop rowing talk, and has been incredibly supportive of me. We both love rowing (me maybe a bit more), a lot of the same sitcoms, Italian food, anything MCU), Nashville's absolutely ASTONISHING craft beer scene, watching sports, and many others. Most importantly, she cares for me on a level nobody ever has, which I cherish and love.
What are your professional and rowing aspirations after finishing your education?
This varies wildly depending on location. Professionally I am planning to work as an Assistant District Attorney after graduation. Otherwise, I'd like to work as a Public Defender. Maybe become a judge eventually, or transfer to a firm, but I've wanted a public service career for a long time.
Regarding rowing, I'm uncertain, as this is highly dependent on where I end up working. Right now, I want to work in Nashville so KayLee can finish her PhD. Coach Miller at Vanderbilt could MAYBE persuade me to coach. If I end up in Cincinnati or Philadelphia, I know I could row with Cincinnati Rowing Club's growing High-Performance Program or Undine again. From my experience I think I've gained a lot of insight and want to help develop future rowers.
What emotions and feelings were you experiencing after finishing first overall in your 4 and 8 at HOOCH and 4 at Charles?
I actually wanted to race at the Bald Eagle Invitational instead of Hooch, since even though it isn't as well known, Michigan, Purdue, Notre Dame, and Minnesota would all be there. Steel sharpens steel after all. That said, Hooch was still interesting, I had never walked into a regatta being on THE team to beat, and doing that, and winning everything was kinda wild.
We were more excited for the 8+, since we had only raced Clemson in it (and won by a minute) and changed our lineup to me stroking the week off, so there was a lot of uncertainty. Plus, we expected OKC would be faster since they have depth as a Varsity program. Additionally, we had not won that event in a while, and had a high bow count so we had to pass several crews while racing. That was the single best eight race of my life, tied with my Charles 4+ overall. And of course, the trophy is cool.
Charles on the other hand, was WILD. We knew we were a fast boat, we did BRUTAL selection through daily lineup changes. We were pretty experienced, I've rowed forever and am sub 6:25, our 3 seat was a 205lb senior with a sub 6:20 erg and smooth stroke, our 2 seat was a 194lb senior who had rowed for Potomac Boat Club and has the team 2k record below 6:05, and bow was a 123lb junior with a sub 6:45 erg (redefining weight efficiency) who had rowed with New York Athletic Club this past summer and won club nationals. Our coxswain was a transfer from Marist's D1 program, and he's VERY good as well. Ultimately, we just went out and decided to race to the best of our ability, and not think too much about results aside from putting ourselves in the best position to do well. The race was the most painful race of my life at that point, we could taste literal blood in our throats from two minutes in and going against the current was brutal on our legs. We were ecstatic after hearing we won. I've kept the Charles medal on me since the race. That said, I plan to give it to my grandfather, who rowed in the 80s and wrote the Milwaukee Rowing Club's charter.
Are there any individuals or groups that have really influenced you both as a rower and professional?
I'd give a specific reference to Jordan Cameron (MURC), Coach Miller (Vanderbilt Head Coach) and myself.
Jordan was the first one to teach me that steady state isn't just pulling as hard as possible all the time with a heart rate monitor, and really taught me the importance of steady state, which cannot be understated.
I'd say myself, simply because MURC did not have a coach the entire time I was there, and I received outside coaching at MOST two months a year. I saw MURC as an opportunity to hold myself 100% accountable for training outcomes since I made 100% of the decisions and read voraciously on anything I could find (two recommendations, Rowing Faster Second Edition by Volker Nolte, and Training the Energy Systems by Fritz Hagerman). Indeed, at all programs, the athlete is primarily responsible for their own training/race outcomes, since to compete at the top end of even club rowing, substantial work outside of just six competitive practices a week has to be done.
Of course, I got lost in the sauce pretty frequently, a large reason I accredit Coach Miller as an influence. First of all, he is the one single person I have met who has as encyclopedic a knowledge of training as me. He took me, someone with an absurd level of knowledge on the sport and mental health issues and was able to guide me in my outside work and fix technical issues in my stroke. Plus he's established a strong culture here along with the other coaches, with a supportive team. He believes I can be the man.The man PERFECTLY strikes the balance between being demanding and patient, is incredibly organized, serves as a role model for all his rowers, and inspires us to demand the absolute maximum of ourselves for this team. I cannot and never will thank Coach Miller enough for all he has done for me the past two years.
Anything else that you’d like to share with Miami Rowing Alumni and Families?
1) Spring Street Treats SLAPS;
2) Backwards Spring Street Treats hat = guaranteed minus five splits on your 2k;
3) “Stacy's mom has got it going on” - Fountain of Wayne 2003
4) I will not get you out of a parking or speeding ticket.