It is 5 a.m. Your alarm goes off. You quickly roll over to turn it off before your roommate wakes up. Turning on the flashlight on your phone, you quietly get ready in the near darkness of your dorm room. It is 5:30 a.m. You are piled in a van with other sleepy humans, huddled together in hooded sweatshirts, feet propped up on the numerous duffel bags that cover the floor space. It is 6 a.m. You are walking down to the docks from the St. Lawrence University boathouse, Vespoli racing shell resting on your shoulder, the intense pink and orange swirls of a classic North Country sunrise looming out over the glassy river. Already, before even setting the boat in the water, you have accomplished more than 95% of your classmates who lie sleeping in their warm beds back on campus. You have dedicated yourself, morning after morning, to the bettering of yourself and your team. And when you do set the boat in the water? Well, that’s when the real magic begins.
While water time is amazing and valued by every member of our team, rowing is a weather-dependent sport. Winter months are when the true grit and determination of this team shines through. November through March is spent putting in hours of grueling work in the erg room, weight room, or in our new tanks. Between team lifts and excruciating cardiovascular endeavors known as 2k erg tests, our team gets stronger in more ways than one. As physical fitness reaches new heights, mental toughness improves in leaps and bounds, and the bonds formed between teammates while supporting one another through winter training last well beyond the spring months to come.
Another amazing aspect of our rowing program at St. Lawrence is its inclusivity. Anyone is welcome to join the team, and your experience will be what you make of it, seeing as how there are no cuts or tryouts. As someone who had zero experience with rowing prior to coming to St. Lawrence, joining this team was a big leap of faith for me. I had no idea what I would be getting myself into. 5 a.m. sounded daunting, the new lingo/vocabulary/responsibility I would have as a coxswain was intimidating; what was I thinking? How could I possibly do this new sport and stay on top of my classes? I was in General Biology and General Chemistry my freshman fall semester, which many student-athletes can sympathize with. Balancing academics and practices was challenging at first, but the support network on this team is incomparable. Upperclassmen science majors had my back at every turn, giving me resources and advice that helped them survive. My fellow novice teammates were right along with me every step of the way as we navigated what it meant to be a student-athlete at St. Lawrence. Our head coach was there for me when I was struggling in chemistry and helped me find resources I needed to succeed in both the classroom and on the water.
Bernardo Moreno '18 explained it best when he said, “Joining the rowing team has been the single most important decision I’ve made at St. Lawrence. Meeting all of the people was great, but the bonds I’ve created with them over workouts, meals, and travel are for sure going to last lifetimes. I didn’t play any sports in high school so I never knew that kind of dynamic, but I knew my freshman year that I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself." Looking back, I can confidently agree and say that joining this community has been one of the greatest decisions I have made at college and in my life so far. The friendships I have made, the challenges I have overcome, and the confidence in myself that I have gained are things I will carry with me long after my college days are gone. And so when it is 5 a.m. and that alarm goes off, I get up, morning after morning. It is time to be part of something bigger than myself.