Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, while most college students are cramming in their last hours of sleep, the University of Colorado women’s crew team is already up and active. Carlson Gym remains dimly lit, awaiting the sunrise.
None of the athletes seem to be fighting sleep. The varsity and novice squads separate, with one group spending 30 minutes on the rowing machines lined up on the gym’s hardwood floor and the other attacking a long agenda of core work and stretching.
Metta Gilbert and Sam Kelly, both in their second year of coaching crew at CU, described the sport as challenging because of the monotony of the rowing movement. Freshman MCDB major Zoe Roth agreed.
“The hardest [thing] is getting over the mental side of it,” Roth said. “When you’re rowing, you always end up in physical pain at some point, so you have to learn to get through it.”
With grueling practice schedules and high amounts of physical and mental challenge, it can be difficult to see why rowing crew is a rewarding activity. Sophomore international affairs major Claire Ochsner claimed that the sport offers not a boost in self-esteem, but also a lesson in cooperation.
“The camaraderie is unparalleled, because you’re literally in the same boat. You’re only as fast as your slowest girl,” Ochsner said. “My favorite part has just been meeting friends that I’ll keep for the rest of my life and finding out how strong I am.”
At the university level, crew is split into fall and spring seasons. According to Ochsner, the fall season consists of endurance-based races, specifically called “head-racing.” Spring is centered around a 2-kilometer sprint race.
“You’re in this high-output aerobic activity for a period of time that’s really uncomfortable,” Ochsner said about the 2k race. “You’re bringing a boat of eight people from a dead start to as fast as you can go.”
The key to success is synchronization and rhythm. “Once you’re in the boat you have to work as a complete unit,” Roth said. “It doesn’t matter who is faster and who is slower, as long as you’re in sync and pulling hard.”
Although crew is largely unseen by the student population, the rewards outweigh the challenges when it comes to competition. As a member of the varsity team, Ochsner values the dedication it teaches.
“I would recommend it to anyone who has ever been a serious athlete or has wanted to be,” she said.
As a club sport, anyone is welcome to join. Recruitment is ongoing, and any students interested in rowing can contact the coaches at CuCrewRecruiting@gmail.com. The team will compete against the University of Texas and Oklahoma City University over spring break.
Contact CU Independent Assistant Sports Editor Jordyn Siemens at firstname.lastname@example.org.