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Campus Currents

Crew team on Oyster RiverPhoto by George Barker

Barely a Wake

A sharp wind pummels coaches Sue Taylor and Carolyn Miles '98 and raises choppy waves on the gray-green water as the two women pilot a buzzing motorboat along the Oyster River. It's a cold morning in March, and the ice has just broken up on the river. Taylor, the women's crew coach, sees trouble ahead. She calls out to her coxswain: "Tina, do you see that iceberg?"

Three boats, filled with eight rowers of varying degrees of experience and led by the coxswains, are to head up the rough river for a training race. But first the coxswains must back the boats into a cove and onto an imaginary starting line to simulate race conditions.

Not an easy task. One boat is off on its angle, just a bit. The next boat has drifted. The third had gone ahead too far. Adjustments have to be precise. "Aim for the left side of the large white house at the end of the course," Miles, the assistant coach, tells one coxswain. "You aim for the middle of the house, and you take the right side," Taylor calls to the others.

Finally, all three are lined up. "Clean, sharp blade work," Taylor insists. "And most of all, be feisty and aggressive. Right from the start."

The coxswains pace the strokes. Rowers lean and pull. The long, sleek boats cut and glide through the water, which is glowing pink now as the sun slips over the horizon. From their starting point at Jackon's Landing, they pull past snow and ice-covered riverbanks.

A crew boat is powered by athletes working--ideally--as one. "It's the ultimate team sport," says Matt Treat '01. "If one person in eight is not doing the right thing, it's over."

Few crew team members at UNH have rowed before college. They are recruited, but often it is at Freshman Orientation or maybe by roommates or a dorm neighbor.

"You can pick up rowing in college," says men's coach Pete Cathey. "It's one of the few sports where you can still do that."

Women's crew is a varsity sport, while the men compete as a club. The sport is not for everyone. It requires practice six days a week, early in the morning. In the winter, crew team members work out indoors on the rowing machines in a decidedly unromantic room above Lundholm Gymnasium.

"Crew changed my life," Treat says. "It's something I stumbled upon, and it ends up being the most competitive thing I've ever been involved with. It's helped me to know I can do anything I put my mind to."

--Allen Lessels '76

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