Penn AC’s Justin Keen and Sean Hall Win Honors from Schuylkill Navy

by: m_wherley

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Hall and Keen with Schuylkill Navy Commodore Paul Horvat

Hall and Keen with Schuylkill Navy Commodore Paul Horvat           (credit: Sabina Pierce)

Penn AC’s Justin Keen and Sean Hall were honored as 2016 Male Athlete of the Year and 2016 Coach of the Year, respectively, by the Schuylkill Navy at its annual party on March 11th. Over 400 people attended the event, which took place in many of the clubs on Boathouse Row, including Penn AC, where the fireplace was almost as big a celebrity as Keen and Hall on this unseasonably cold March night.

“We are so proud of Justin and Sean, and honored that the Schuylkill Navy chose to recognize them both for such an outstanding 2016!” said Penn AC President Mike Wherley.

JUSTIN KEEN – Male Athlete of the Year

Keen had an incredible 2016. He started the year by finishing 4th in the Men’s 1x at the US Olympic Trials, and he ended the year with wins in the Redgrave Challenge Champ 1x at the Head of the Schuylkill and the Men’s 1x at the US Rowing East Coast Speed Order.

In between, he stroked the Schuylkill Navy HPC Men’s 4x (with Erik Frid, JP Kirkegaard, and Lenny Futterman) that won the Prince of Wales Challenge Cup at the Henley Royal Regatta and he stroked the Penn AC Men’s 2x that won the Champ 2x at the Head of the Charles. Keen also posted wins in the Champ 1x at Canadian Henley and both the 1x and the 2x at the Navy Day Regatta.

“Justin has continued to impress me with his intensity and his results, and I think we’re still just scratching the surface,” said Coach Hall. “He’s setting performance standards that I hope all Penn AC athletes will aspire to.”

The victory in Boston was particularly noteworthy because Keen and teammate Erik Frid beat out several Olympians, including 2016 Olympic 1x Gold Medalist Mahe Drysdale and 2016 Olympic 2x Bronze Medalist Olaf Tufte, who had teamed up in the 2x for this event.

“It’s great to be recognized for all of the time and energy I’ve put into rowing over the past 8 years,” said Keen, “but I’d say this award is even more meaningful to my friends and family.”

Keen started rowing in 2008 at Penn State, and he joined Penn AC in 2012 after graduating from college. His erg score at the time was 6:23, but he has whittled that time down to 5:56 over the years. Keen is yet another example of an athlete that came to Penn AC as a total unknown, but who had the right mental attitude and physical potential to develop into an elite athlete.

Keen has also become a leader in the Philadelphia rowing community. He was a dedicated volunteer in the massive effort to clear the weeds that choked the Schuylkill River last summer.

SEAN HALL – Coach of the Year

When Sean Hall was hired by Penn AC in the fall of 2015, its High Performance Group had just 7 athletes and it was struggling to keep people. But today the group is thriving with 25 men and women, as scullers quickly became aware of the competitive atmosphere that Hall was fostering. He coached all the boats mentioned above, including the Men’s 4x that won last summer at the Henley Royal Regatta.

“Sean has made an enormous impact at both Penn AC and the Schuylkill Navy HPC,” said Wherley. “We knew he had excellent coaching credentials, but the results he achieved in 2016 far exceeded our hopes for that first year.”

Justin Keen and the other athletes have seen the impact on a daily basis. “Sean has been able to take a group of athletes with very diverse backgrounds and perspectives, slowly re-orient them such that everyone is pulling in the same direction, and then build a team momentum that has enabled everyone to reach new levels,” said Keen.

Hall was also tasked with helping to establish the Schuylkill Navy High Performance Collaborative. He began working with athletes and coaches from different clubs in Philadelphia, but also helped draw new athletes to Philadelphia.

“Sean exudes positive energy and maintains a long-term view amidst the ups and downs of training, knowing when to push or back off to maintain a high standard without relying on ego and fear,” said Keen.

“It is clear that Sean’s athletes are getting stronger and faster under his training plan, but the broader benefit to the rowing is that Sean has fully embraced the Schuylkill Navy HPC,” said Wherley, “and now we can rally the entire Boathouse Row community to support these athletes.”

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