Rowers face obstacles but continue despite hardships

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SLRC rowers stand at the Head of the Rock in Rockford, Illinois, where they won their gold medal of the season on Oct. 9.

In rowing, every practice, race and preparation is all part of the competition. Rowers race against each other for the best seat in the boat, while building friendships along the way.

“One obstacle I’ve encountered is the amount of muscle [involved in rowing],” sophomore and second seat Ashlyn Roesch said. “I was already athletic, but I’m working parts of my body that I’ve never worked before, so it’s a challenge.”

Along with Roesch, junior Drew Harris [starboard varied seat] and Katy Ward [starboard varied seat] row for the St. Louis Rowing Club (SLRC), along with about 50 other members. They get together at the Creve Coeur boat house and practice two hours a day during the week, including weekends.

“I row every night for two hours, so I don’t have a lot of time to do homework,” Roesch said. “I can’t stay after school to do anything because I have to go straight to rowing. I’ve had to sacrifice a few things for the sport, like junk food and sleep.”

Not only do rowers sacrifice the things they love, but they also jeopardize their general health.

[quote text_size=”small” author=”–Katy Ward”]

It’s made me more open to other people–different people.

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“There’s a lot of lower back pain [involved with rowing]. I know one girl on my team who dislocated five of her ribs last season,” Roesch said.

Not only do they deal with sudden injuries, but chronic illness, too.

“I’ve never been injured, but I do have asthma and I have to row during attacks because you can’t just stop racing,” Harris said. “We do core and stretching at least three times a week to avoid injury as best as possible.”

Unlike traditional high school sports, rowing is a year-round commitment. During the winter season, when the lake is frozen over, rowers use ergometers, or rowing machines, to keep themselves fit while they are off the water.

“The entire winter season is really rough. It’s pretty much hard workouts every day,” Harris said. “There were times where I didn’t even want to do it anymore.”

They have to achieve high distances in a short amount of time, making it more difficult.

“In the spring we race 2000 meters and in the fall we race 5000 meters. The time varies by boat and each individual rower,” Harris said. “That’s for an eight [eight people in a boat]. The times for fours are a little longer because less rowers mean less power, and less power means less speed.”

Harris hopes to row in college, but admits that some of her colleagues have chosen the opposite. Despite the physical and emotional adversities faced, the payoff for Harris and her teammates is the sense of community amongst SLRC rowers.

“It’s made me more open to other people–different people,” junior Katy Ward said. “The people I meet at rowing are people I normally wouldn’t hang out with, but now we’re all really close friends.”