Devon Zahm / The Western Front
The Western men’s crew team launches into spring season with hopes of coming away with its third consecutive Northwest Collegiate Rowing Conference title.
The team springs into its competitive season on Saturday, March 15, when it will host the University of Puget Sound and Seattle Pacific University in the first regatta of the season, The Western Washington University Invitational, on Lake Samish. The teams will race 1,000 meters—half the distance of the regulation 2,000-meter races — because the regatta is meant to gauge the teams’ abilities, senior team president Joe Gregersen said.
The WWU Invitational is the beginning of a jam-packed schedule including another regatta, the Frazier Valley duel, March 22, on Lake Whatcom. The team has a race scheduled for every weekend until Memorial Day, Gregersen said.
“When you finish a race and you win, there’s no referee, there’s no weird calls because everything is quantifiable and unarguable,” junior team vice president Carl Smith said. “[It] proves that you’re stronger than the other guys, you’re better than them.”
Smith is eager to begin competing because of the turnout this year. In the past, athletes either graduate or the time commitment became too much for them, but this year the team has a lot more returners, Smith said.
The returning rowers have all matured and are ready for new challenges, Gregersen said.
“We’ve got a lot of guys who were young last year and have really grown this year,” Gregersen said. “I think the whole team has a higher standard.”
This is the strongest team head coach Jack Marolich has seen in his five years of coaching at Western, he said.
“Based on the team this year versus last year and the year before, I would say we have a better team,” Marolich said. “I’d like to think that it means that we have a better shot at winning the conference title, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.”
Participating on the crew team is rewarding, Smith said.
“[Rowing] is the only thing in my life where I’ve had to match the gaps with physical demand and mental ones,” Smith said. “But there’s physical accomplishment and mental fortitude for it.”
Gruesome weather conditions hindered the winter training schedule for the team, but hasn’t brought down its spirits, Marolich said.
The team practiced on the water less than in recent seasons because of wind, fog and snow. Instead, the members used the opportunity to focus on land workouts and training, making them stronger than in the past, Marolich said.
All rowers practice at 5 a.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. on Saturdays at Lake Whatcom. As a club sport, the men also have to pay to participate and must fundraise for team expenses, such as traveling and equipment.
“It takes someone who is quite motivated and dedicated to not only do all those things, but also wake up six days a week before most people even think of getting up,” Marolich said.
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