The water splashes as the oars return into the water. The rower pushes her legs back with more power and strength than a Marian girl pushing to the front of the lunch line. The boat surges forward with the power of the combined efforts of the young women. This image is a dream that members of a new rowing team are working toward as they await warmer weather.
Rowing has been around for centuries as transportation, but the sport did not officially begin until the 17th or 18th century in England. Oxford and Cambridge went head-to-head in the first competition in 1828, according to the official website of Olympic Sport History.
Rowing has a variety of categories. A rower can compete as a single, pair or group of four or eight in a boat. There are two types of rowing: sculling and sweeping. Sculling requires the rower to hold two oars, while sweeping requires one.
Marian rowers are practicing sweeping. In an eight-person boat, a coxswain is also involved. A coxswain steers the boat and directs the rowers to stay in sync.
This hidden gem of a sport has just begun to gain popularity among Marian students. Mrs. Jennifer Christen, Assistant Principal and the Dean of Student Services, communicated the opportunity to students to participate in rowing outside of school with the Omaha Rowing Association. Catherine Saarela-Irvin has been coaching the new rowers since Jan. 13.
Junior Sarah Cronin said she was thrilled to join rowing. “I received the email and was automatically super interested. I was actually the only person to show up to the first practice, so I got really motivated to send out information to get the team together,” Cronin said.
Marian students are now meeting every Sunday morning at 7 a.m. and Monday and Wednesday mornings at 5 a.m. for practice. Driving to Carter Lake before dawn to practice requires serious dedication and commitment to the team. “I actually don’t mind [the early mornings] because I always go to bed early enough for 8 hours of sleep, so it’s not like I’m that tired,” Cronin said. “It’s also super nice to have a hard workout in the morning because then I feel like I can take on any challenges the day throws at me.”
When the Marian students arrived at their first practice, they were met with friendly and energetic students from another all-girls school in Omaha.
Duchesne Academy has their own pair of girls that have been rowing since last June, and a whole team who will rejoin the group when summer hits.
“I really wanted to find a new sport in high school, but all the registrations and things for the other sports had ended, so I asked around and found out rowing was starting soon. It sounded super interesting because I had no experience with anything like it,” Mary Countryman, a sophomore at Duchesne, said.
Even though rowing is a great way to start the day, it still has its pros and cons. “I love the team and the camaraderie that comes along with rowing, but the workouts are killer, and I don’t always enjoy going so hard that I feel like throwing up by the end of practice,” Cronin said.
Waking up at 5 a.m. and pushing oneself in an extreme workout can take its toll on the body, but Countryman warned Marian students of what they were in for.
“The biggest challenge with rowing is carrying the boat. It isn’t fun, and you’ll probably have bruises after a few days, but it’s also an amazing teamwork exercise, and I wouldn’t change it if I could,” Countryman said.
Currently, the combined rowing team of Marian and Duchesne students is unable to practice on the lake because of the cold conditions, but the constant snow does not stop rowers from dreaming. “I’m so excited for the lake to unfreeze and for us to finally get out on the water,” Cronin said.
As soon as the team gets out on the water, they will begin to compete in competitions called regattas that are held all across the country.
“My favorite regatta was the Frostbite Regatta in Kansas. It was in November, so it was a little chilly, but it was such an amazing experience to be able to row with KCRC (Kansas City Rowing Club), and it was great to have a little bonding over the frigid morning,” Countryman said.
The team has already competed at Creighton University’s 2K Challenge. This challenge was indoors and not on the water. Their first regatta is yet to be decided because of the snowy weather.
Countryman has her fair share of rowing stories. “I had HORRIBLE bronchitis on my second regatta, but that wasn’t going to stop me! So, I was coughing and hacking while also rowing my little heart out—more like my lungs out. Anyway, I threw up out the side of the boat while still rowing,” Countryman said.
Rowing is a sport outside of Marian that girls are excited to engage in. There are currently 12 Marian students who participate. The beautiful image of rowing together on a lake motivates the team to get up in the morning and keep on rowing.