Reflecting in 1995 on his years on St. Mary’s Crew, team historian Miguel Perez wrote, “I feel so sad and lost, knowing that my rowing days are over. Worst of all, I never came in any place other than last. Just once, I wish we that we had beat another boat, or at least I wish that I had seen one of my team mates come in first. It would have meant a great deal to me”. On Saturday, the crew club brought back the Seahawk Sprint with a vengeance, after a four-year hiatus. A strong showing from the team saw gold medals around the necks of those in the men’s Varsity 8, the men’s and women’s Novice 8, and the men’s Varsity 4. The women’s Varsity 4 and 8 also saw strong finishes Sat. morning. Not only was it a good day, it helped illustrate the kind of year the team has been having, with nine regattas attended, eight gold medal races, and 16 top three finishes. Three regattas remain in the season, including the Governor’s Cup in Charleston, WV, the Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Crew Championships in Occoquan, VA, and the culminating competition, the American Collegiate Rowing Association (ACRA) Championship in Oklahoma City, OK.
On Sat., each of my boats won. When I awoke at 4 a.m., I had gotten very little sleep and was hurting already. My alarm had to work overtime to keep me awake. It’s days like these that one’s mettle is put to the test. Days like these really help me marvel at the other members of crew who come to practice on a regular basis. It is easy to be cheerful when you are relaxed and feeling fine, but not so easy when you are busy, overworked, tired and physically burnt out. Yet being able to endure makes me feel accomplished. Being able to perform under pressure and succeed is what I really like about Crew. Simply put, if rowing weren’t so taxing and challenging, I wouldn’t love it the way that I do.
The most common questions those on the team are asked is not only why they spend so much time running the club, but why they are willing to sacrifice so many late nights and spend so many early mornings out in the cold, the wet, and the wind. The cynical and sarcastic answer is that they don’t have a choice–they have made crew their life here at school and are forced to follow through with it or be left with nothing. Luckily, this is not their answer. Instead, consider this: sometimes, it is not cold and wet and windy. Sometimes the St. Mary’s is as flat as glass and teeming with luminescent creatures that wink at you as you glide by. Sometimes you can look up and get dizzy with the amount of stars in the sky. You might see so many shooting stars you lose count. You learn all the river’s moods and how fast those moods can change. However, the best feeling has nothing to with nature; it has everything to with swing and power. It’s a feeling that can’t be explained. You know it’s happening when you experience it. It becomes evident when you’re first off the start and you can row with the ultimate confidence that the race is yours, or when you’re last off the line and power through a crowded field. It may not happen as often as you’d like, but when you get a taste of it, you can’t help but come back for more.
How has the team come so far? For the past 20 years, St. Mary’s College Crew has been run by its student members, who have shown a willingness to contribute an inordinate number of hours to the team, assuring that it continues to flourish. Today, the team is still run by students who take pride in the fact that they have been able to function independently–all perfectly capable young men and women who can choose the path for the team’s future. As the semester is running out on us, I’m glad that we have not wasted our season with inaction. Decreasing enrollments and deteriorating equipment all make for a worse and worse situation. Instead, we have secured a state-of-the-art shell, continued to update the team’s inventory, and have the new addition of 20 bright new faces that we hope will step up and take the team into their own hands in the years ahead.