Club Reflections: St. Mary’s Crew

I was an innocent First-year, awkwardly exercising on an indoor rower at the gym when a huddle of sleep-deprived zombies posted a hastily-scrawled sign on the wall in front of me: “Hey you! Yeah…you! In the…shirt. Yeah. Come to our first meeting tonight in Schaefer!” (For some reason, I never forgot that sign.)

But I knew better. There was no way I would crawl out of bed at five in the morning to walk all the way down to the waterfront in the dark just to cover my hands in blisters, freeze my butt off with a coxswain wailing at me before the crack of dawn, be associated with that obnoxiously large group banging down the doors of the Great Room for breakfast, then hop back under the covers for a quick nap—all before the rest of the campus stirred awake for their 8 AM classes. It just didn’t make any sense. What was the point?

Even now, after a whirlwind year with the crew team, I still don’t quite understand it. I shuffle into the boathouse every morning at 5:30 to hear horror stories of my teammates working on papers until 4 a.m., managing a quick nap before practice, then heading off to their 8 a.m. classes or their jobs to start their day.

We boast RAs (how do you guys do it?), pre-meds (P.O.B. + crew?!), and future teachers (no time to shower before placements!). We tear our muscles in two (or three or four or millions), until the lactic acid will surely burn through our flesh, and all the while a tiny, unreasonable person is screaming at us to row faster.

We pack up a trailer full of 65-foot boats and seats and oars and tools to travel for hours just to try to win a little piece of metal with a ribbon to adorn our sweaty necks. We fundraise nonstop to pay for pieces of equipment I don’t understand, can’t carry, or can’t pronounce.

Maybe seniors Carla Bacon and Melina Vamvas (our President and First Lady, respectively), who have stuck it out all four years, understand it? Does any of it make any sense to anyone?

I don’t know, but I think it’s the people. I can’t let these people down. I can’t put myself in a situation that will compromise my condition, because my boat needs me. If I have to set five alarms for the morning, I’ll do it, because my boat needs me.

I’ll pull a little harder on the erg when it rains and we have gym practice because it’ll make me stronger, since my boat needs me. And when I cross the finish line at the race with that boat, whether we’re in first or last, I just shared something special with eight other people that nobody else can understand.

I have made fifty fast friends this year—fifty of the most hard-working, strongest, most inspiring people. Fifty of the funniest people. Fifty of the best hug-givers. Fifty of the most insane people…

I can’t imagine sharing a St. Mary’s River sunrise or a shooting star with anybody but them.

The Rare Crewbie may resemble a zombie by dinner time, but that’s because they’ve been working so hard this semester. Before the season started, two of our boats placed first in their categories at the Wye Island regatta, a half-marathon row.

We’ve traveled to races in D.C., Philly, and Virginia over the semester, and our varsity women medaled at the Occoquan Challenge last month. We’ve been actively fundraising toward the purchase of a new boat for our novices (thanks for everyone’s support at RiverFest and Bruster’s!).

And next month, junior Holly Fabbri and myself will be rowing a full marathon (42,195 meters) on the indoor rower, just because we want to (Please visit us/suggest good movies to pass the time?).

What’s next for the team? You can cheer for us at our home regatta, the Seahawk Sprint, coming next semester. You can buy cRaZy spandex from us to help support our growing team as we try to purchase a new boat. You can hug us when you see us gulping coffee to stay awake in class (we like hugs).

Or better yet: you can join the team when we recruit during Club Fair in the spring and become part of a unique group in a unique sport. You don’t need any prior knowledge of rowing or coxing, just a willingness to learn and willpower to be great.

Why would you join? Why put yourself through all of that…weirdness…I just described? I don’t know. You’re going to have to figure that out for yourself. But crew is like crack…and I promise that, somehow, strangely, you’ll become addicted and love it, too.

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