It is a requirement at the Academy that cadets participate in athletics; whether the activity is a varsity NCAA program or an intramural group is up to the individual. For me it was a clear choice to row – I have been rowing in the area since I was ten and recently have become more competitive as an individual in a single (sculling alone) and as a team member (sweep rowing typically with three or seven other rowers). Through high school I updated head coach, Jen Meuse, with my erg scores and race performances, and this made for an easy transition to collegiate rowing.
Around the third week of Swab Summer “sports periods” started and swabs were able to meet with coaches and cadre of their sports interest for about 90 minutes. While at first it was very awkward to be in a relaxed environment with the chief of staff (a 1/c cadet), my division officer cadre, (a 2/c cadet), and other upper class, I soon felt at ease conversing about a sport I knew very well. The awkwardness continued to go away as the school year came along, and by our first race in September I felt comfortable enough to train alongside any of my team mates.
I will admit that the initial shock of racing varsity was overwhelming; my roommate, Caroline, was just learning to row and practiced with the rest of my friends who were on the novice team. Usually the varsity girls would finish earlier and I would take my time changing and make the effort to walk back up to Chase Hall with my novice classmates. I tried to share any knowledge from experience I had and made a conscious effort to be humble about my abilities, knowing that within months my peers could match my skill level. I was worried at first that racing in a double, a two person shell, with my partner, 1/c Tahnee Zaccano, in September would distance me from my classmates, but instead the girls were enthusiastic and very supportive. My classmates’ support helped me to train hard and not to worry about losing their friendships.
I treated my varsity teammates the same as my novice peers, sharing tools for rigging and quick fixes for technique problems. Even as the season went on, it was still an odd feeling to teach someone older than myself, and particularly strange when my teammate was in my chain of command. It was a great experience however to have a professional relationship with my 3/c, who sat directly behind me and was directly responsible for me, my Swab Summer 2/c, sitting 2 seats behind, and the Swab Summer chief of staff, sitting in bow. All of these ladies were in Bravo Company with me, and rowing in the “Bravo Bow” with them was an honor and a made for a fantastic first season.
Our shortfall season closed in late October with a regatta in Boston known as the Head of the Charles. Teams from across the world came to compete in one of the most well-known races and in particular, collegiate teams raced only their fastest crews. Our competition was very aggressive and the field overall became faster, so we placed in the lower half of our field. Our boat was not discouraged by this performance however; we identified our weaknesses and made a plan to improve them for the spring season. As an individual I was also able to evaluate myself and my performance, and knowing that I had begun my collegiate rowing career as a varsity athlete helped me to see my potential and my value to the team.
More about Sarah.