June 5, 2024

Brazilian Misasi Enjoyed Ride with PU Men’s Rowing, Helping Tiger Heavyweights Take 2nd in IRA Standings

MAKING HIS MARK: Princeton University men’s heavyweight rower Marco Misasi, center, competes in the seven-seat in a race this spring for the varsity 8. Last Sunday, team captain Misasi helped the varsity 8 take fourth in its grand final at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championships on Mercer Lake. Princeton finished second in the Ten Eyck team point standings at the regatta with 266, 12 points behind champion Washington. (Photo by Ed Hewitt/Row2k, provided courtesy of Princeton Athletics)

By Bill Alden

As a 12-year-old growing up in Brazil, Marco Misasi was a high-spirited kid.

Looking to channel that vigor, Misasi’s parents pushed him to take up rowing.

“What got me into the sport was that I had too much energy as a kid,” said Misasi, a native of Sao Paulo. “My dad asked one of his friends and his son was in rowing and he said you should put him into rowing because rowing is going to drain all of his energy.”

Joining the Esporte Clube Pinheiros, Misasi found himself energized by the sport.

“I was just competitive, I wanted to beat people,” said Misasi. “It was very intense and very competitive.”

Misasi’s intensity led him to make the Brazilian national program in the single scull and compete in the 2018 World Rowing Junior Championships and 2018 Youth Olympic Games.

Being on that stage led Misasi to start thinking about coming to the U.S. to row for a college program.

“When I started having more international experience with the racing, I realized that there was a lot of people who go to the U.S.” said Misasi. “I started emailing coaches — this is my time, what do I have to do, how does it work to apply to a school? I talked to a lot of schools and they started explaining to me about taking the SAT, taking the TOEFL and sending my grades.”

Once immersed in that process, Misasi ended up matriculating at Princeton and joining its men’s heavyweight rowing program.

“I liked the team environment more; the Princeton coaches were always very honest and very respectful of my desires,” said Misasi, who visited Cal-Berkeley, Harvard, and Yale in addition to Princeton. “If you want to go to the U.S., it is important to be in a school where the coaches were going to give you the space to be a great rower. That will be a priority but they also understand academically you have commitments and they won’t constrain you there. The way they treated me through recruiting showed me that was a place where they would let me develop as a student and a rower.”

After an up-and-down start at Princeton which saw him sent home in the spring of 2020 due to the COVID pandemic and then taking a gap year in 2020-21, Misasi developed into a star and leader for the Tigers. He earned a spot on the varsity 8 in the seven-seat for the 2023 spring campaign and has been a mainstay for the top boat this season in his senior year, serving as a team captain.

Last weekend, Misasi helped the varsity 8 take fourth in its grand final at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championships on Mercer Lake. Princeton finished second in the Ten Eyck team point standings at the regatta with 266, 12 points behind champion Washington.

Struggling in his return to Princeton in 2021-22 as a sophomore, it didn’t look like Misasi was headed for a key role for the Tiger program.

“2022 was a quite a rocky year for me,” said Misasi, noting that he initially struggled with English in moving to the U.S. “During the fall I was on the varsity or the second varsity but then I had COVID in January and then I had pneumonia, so I was out almost a month or two. When I came back I was in the third varsity and for the IRAs I was on the second varsity. I was always sick and every time I would come back to rowing, I would get worse again so I took some time.”

As a junior, Misasi started rowing well, earning a spot on the top boat.

“I always thought I should be in the varsity 8; it was like, ‘OK I think this is where I am supposed to be,’” said Misasi. “We just had two really good freshmen come in. There was another guy in my class who had been injured the previous year and was a really good rower and he was also able to come back. We got a really good varsity together. It was like, ‘OK we can do something with this boat,’ and then we did well in that season.”

The varsity 8 ended up doing very well in 2023, taking second at the Eastern Sprints and third at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championships.

“It was a big step forward for the boat and also for the program,” said Misasi. “Your varsity has to start medaling and doing well so you can get good recruits the year after and keep improving.”
Being named captain has been a big step for Misasi.

“Of course it is a big honor to be elected by your teammates as someone they trust and would like to follow,” said Misasi. “That was really cool, It was a little bit stressful in the beginning. It changes a few things. This year, my mind was on rowing a lot more than it used to. It is all the time thinking what we can do and how the team is doing.”

The leadership of Misasi helped the Princeton varsity 8 enjoy a superb 2024 campaign as it went undefeated in regular season action for the fifth time in program history (1881, 1997, 1999, 2006, and 2024).

“The spring has been great things worked out,” said Misasi. “It is a lot easier to lead when everyone is being successful. Everyone is in a good mood and everyone believes in what you are saying. If things were going wrong, the job would be a lot harder. It has been enjoyable.”

Misasi credits the help of his five classmates with sparking that success which saw the varsity 8 take second at the Eastern Sprints and win the Rowe Cup team points title at the regatta.

“The leadership really comes from the senior class, I am just the one who talks to Greg (Princeton head coach Greg Hughes) the most,” said Misasi. “Really it is about the senior class. We wanted to have goals for the entire team. Our focus was always on winning team trophies. Our big focus this year was winning the Rowe Cup and to win the Ten Eyck trophy at the IRAs.”

Hughes has enjoyed his interactions with Misasi. “Marco is a very, very special human being,” said Hughes. “He expects excellence from the team but he also delivers that. He holds himself to a higher standard than he expects from his teammates. It is pretty impressive to have somebody who is willing to lead that much by example and to be able to communicate it in a way that pushes guys but in a positive way. He is very inspirational, he is very honest, and he is very genuine. Those characteristics make for a really great leader.”

Misasi has also set a great example off the water.

“When he arrived here, he had some language issues,” added Hughes. “His growth and development has been remarkable. He is a really good communicator. It is impressive. He is a smart kid, he is a hardworking guy, he is everything you would want in a captain or a co-worker. That is him.”

The way the Tigers have come together as a group this spring has impressed Hughes.

“It is one thing to set a goal, it is another thing to put it into action,” said Hughes. “It is much like the sport of rowing, it is the result of steady, consistent, day-to-day hard work. It isn’t just pure athleticism, it is an additive thing. I feel that is the way that group led. It wasn’t about having one sensational or emotional meeting or speech. They just set goals, they were really consistent at chipping away at it and keeping everybody on target.”

That mindset resulted in the Tigers doing so well in the team points standings this spring at the Sprints and IRAs.

“What was great to see was that last year, we were really proud of the results of one boat and this year we were proud of the whole team,” said Hughes, who credited associate head coach Matt Smith and assistant coach Jason Elefant with playing a key role in that success.

“That is a massive change in the culture and the strength of the team. It was a super fun year in terms of my experience as a coach. To be a part of that group and watch how they led that and how they just committed to each other, was really inspiring.”

In the view of Hughes, the program’s Class of ’24 has played a key role in making that commitment possible.

“The legacy of this senior class is the culture that we now have,” said Hughes. “That is arguably more powerful than results. The results are a point in time. If you can grow the culture, that is something that will continue. They enabled other people to step and be role players. It wasn’t you are going to do as we say. They gave underclassmen agency to step up and be a part of it.”

Misasi, for his part, saw that culture reflected in how the varsity 8 handled its business this spring.

“I think everyone trusts each other that we want to be fast and we want to be good,” said Misasi. “But of course in a boat with eight competitive guys, it is not always roses. Sometimes it is people pressuring each other but that is good. Conflict is good as long as it not personal and egos don’t get involved.”

Bonding with stroke Theo Bell, Misasi helped the top boat go very fast.

“I have a good match with the stroke seat, we complement each other because he is very fluid,” said Misasi, who also rowed from the seven-seat this spring, just behind the stroke. “He is a very technical and fluid rower and I am a little bit bigger guy. He keeps it fluid and I keep it long and powerful. That is where it comes from, that is why it works.”

Heading into the IRA regatta, the Tigers worked hard to end their season on a high note.

“It has been good; after the 3V and 2V had so much success winning the Sprints, we were super happy,” said Misasi, noting that Princeton’s performance at the Sprints earned it a trip to the Henley Royal Regatta this summer in England. “It was important to get the head back into the game and really say that we want more because we want more. That is what makes good rowers kind of crazy, they just want more and more.”

Having expended so much energy on and off the water during his college career, Misasi is determined to apply that experience as he heads into working world.

“I think Princeton rowing and Princeton in general set my bar a lot higher for what I expect of myself,” said Misasi, who is moving to San Francisco where he will be working in venture capital investing. “It is going to set the bar higher for me for how I want to perform and how I want to be teammates with people. That is something I will take the rest of my life — how to create a good team culture and create an environment that values performance, harmony, and development.”