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Charlie Venci

Year of Graduation: 
2020

“You can’t make it without those around you.”

Co-captain of the swimming and water polo teams, Charles “Charlie” P. Venci ’20 broke several records during his time at Exeter, including in the 100 backstroke and 200 individual medley. But it isn’t these accomplishments that he remembers most vividly. It is the memory of watching Assistant Coach Avery Reavill ’12 — whose relay record Venci’s team was in the process of breaking — cheering them on as they did it. 

Teamwork was Venci’s biggest takeaway from Exeter: in the classroom, in The Exonian newsroom and in the water. It’s what he’ll carry with him when he joins Williams College’s swimming team and water polo club this fall: “The camaraderie that Exeter and especially water polo has brought out in me, I’m very proud of that.”

That’s why he describes the achievements of his teammates so enthusiastically, like when his co-captain, Andrew Benson ’20, broke Venci's 200 individual medley record at the New England finals. “I knew it was going to fall,” Venci says. “He obliterated the field. It was a great race to watch.”

Venci entered Exeter an accomplished swimmer but was hesitant to join the water polo team, despite Coach Don Mills’ encouragement. But it was on that team, where he’s won fewer accolades, that Venci learned how to be an Exonian. 

He had to join the starting lineup during his lower year when a senior broke his thumb before the match against Navy Aquatic Club. When Venci scored a goal, his captain said, “Welcome to the squad.” It taught Venci something that swimming — a more individual sport — hadn’t yet done: “You can’t make it without those around you.” 

By the time Venci became co-captain of both teams, he’d learned from those who preceded him and were leading alongside him: To show respect for others. To lead by example. And to ease jitters on deck with laughter and noise. “One of the things we pride ourselves in is being the loudest and most supportive team,” he says.

Teamwork was key to his success as sports editor for The Exonian as well. He and his fellow editors “each brought our own strengths to the table.” He leaned on a co-editor's grammar skills, just as his co-editor relied on Venci’s structural talents. And Venci went beyond writing about other teams’ achievements. He rooted them on, just like his upper spring history teacher, Jack Herney, did for him with emails about upcoming matches.

He chose to manage the girls water polo team during spring term of his upper year in this same spirit. When he ran the clock for the New England tournament, he discovered a task he'd have found tedious before "could be both exciting and rewarding, as I watched some great water polo and followed the progress of the talented Exeter team through a field of equally talented competition."

Venci’s value for community made the virtual conclusion to his senior year a great loss. Describing the last class of his Exeter career as surreal, Venci says, “Instead of shaking someone’s hand and saying thank you for a great term and waving, you hit the ‘Leave Meeting’ button.” But he replayed in his mind moments during his time at Exeter to make it all feel less amorphous: standing in line at student registration, sitting at a Harkness table, or finishing his paper on Hawaii’s role in Pacific trade during an eight-hour bus ride to Eastern Pennsylvania for a meet. 

And perhaps most tellingly, he remembers moments with his teams. The water polo squad ran early morning steps in the stadium and he’s not likely to forget one ritual that followed those practices: “I loved watching the sun rise with my team.” 

— Leah Williams