It is 6 a.m. by the time we reach the bridge with the spectacular sunrises. Today, the sky is a light peony hue accented with shades of orange and purple and blue. It is breath-taking. We turn the corner and begin running along the dock; the distinct smell of the salt water is strong. We reach the boat house and a team member unlocks the door. We enter a tall garage like structure that houses twenty racing boats and, like bees to a hive, we hover around Lizzie, our four seater boat.
“Hands on” the coxswain commands the four rowers. We carefully lift and maneuver the $30,000 shell out of the boat house and struggle under the weight.
“Swing it” the coxswain instructs and the four of us adjust the positioning of the boat, taking caution not to hit anything. We roll the boat into the salt water and fetch the oars. We remove our sneakers and gingerly insert our feet into the built-in boat shoes.
“Bow pair, begin rowing” the coxswain's voice can be heard from thirty feet away because of the microphone attached to her head. I feel like I'm going to fall out.
“Stern pair, begin rowing in two,” the coxswain call out. In two strokes, the back two rowers will stop and it will be my job to take over. I clutch my oar and stare straight ahead at the rower in front of me.
“That's one, and....two. Stern pair being rowing.” My oar plunges into the water. I bend my knees and my arms go forward, almost touching the back of the teammate sitting in front of me, and I pull the oar toward my chest.
“Watch your elbow, Sadie!” the coach reminds me from her mini motor boat that follows our row boat. Every time my oar catches the water, when all four women are rowing, I feel like I'm going to fall into the icy water. I constantly adjust my weight according to the way the boat is moving.
“I promise you, Sadie, you aren't going to fall in,” a kind hearted teammate says and offers her pinky. Just relax.
Crew is a tricky sport. Every rower must be equally strong, focused, technically skilled, and in sync in order for the boat to fly. Unlike soccer or basketball, crew requires absolute synchronization which makes it one of the most team oriented sports. I have been playing soccer for most of my life, and I know from those years, that there is usually room for error. Soccer is a sport that allows for interpretation and creativity.
However, when it comes to crew, if one rower misses a stroke, forgets to raise their elbow to a certain hight (resulting in an unbalanced boat), the entire boat is jeopardized. Crew is also one of the most strenuous sports in existence.
At my first crew race last weekend, I lived through one of the most physically demanding experiences of my life. My face was hot, my hands were slipping on and off the oar because of the back splash, I had salt water in my eye, my hands were forming a new layer of blisters, my legs were on fire, my arms felt numb, I could practically see my abs growing. But, I felt bliss when all four of us placed our oars in the water at the same time in perfect harmony. A sense of togetherness that beats all of the pain and agony.
**This Saturday (April 26), the women's varsity and novice boats will compete in the 2014 MARC Championship race in Lewisberry, PA. The women's crew team consists of: Sophomore Soleil Groh, and five First-year students: Faith Cody, Hannah Lipschutz, Kate McGuire, Christina Tang, and Sadie Rose Zavgren. The team is lead by Coach Aleksandra Bucan and Assistant Coach Renae Giefer.