Crew program on the rise

They’re gripping long poles, using all their energy to keep moving forward, getting wet from the sweat of their effort and the water all around them. Are they skimming leaves off a swimming pool? In a stilt race across a raging river? Fighting a light saber duel in a thunderstorm? NO! They’re rowing as part of a crew team!

The Westminster Crew Cats have had quite the season so far this year. The season started on Jan. 9 and lasted until the middle of May. This year the Crew Cats are led by senior  captains Maya Bradford and Hannah Namnoum, veterans of the team, and varsity coach Kasia Kaufman.

“This year we have really strong freshmen and sophomores and so far we have already done well, especially in the novice races,” said Namnoum.

The key to success for the team is the practice. The Crew Cats have very rigorous and long practices that take place Monday through Saturday. Some of these practices take place in the water while some of them take place on land.

“On a typical water practice we leave at 3:40 everyday and then get back around 7:30. Because of this, we have had a lot of girls quit the team each year halfway through the season. It is always difficult to have that happen, as it greatly impacts the team’s morale, and that is one of the biggest challenges the team has to face each year,” said Bradford.

A land practice is when the team stays on campus and works out in the gym. During those practices the team starts with a dynamic warm up, then is typically followed by a long piece on the rowing machines or sprinting pieces on the rowing machines. Next, the team will do cardio such as biking or running and then end the practice with circuits such as abs and lunges. If the team is on the river, the team will start off with a dynamic warm-up and then they will take the boats out and do “race paces,” longer “steady-state paces,” or “sprinting paces” to really focus on endurance and technique.

Besides practice another key to success for the CrewCats is team bonding.

“We have a really strong sisterhood bond,” said Namnoum.

The crew team is known for their loving dynamic.

“Westminster crew is a developing program. We don’t always do really well within the picture of regattas. We don’t always win the medals. We aren’t known as the team that wins every race, so as a rower you are on the team for a reason that is deeper than just winning medals,” said Bradford. “That team bonding is essential because crew is the most extreme form of a team sport. Everyone has to be perfectly in sync while we are competing, so if the team doesn’t gel well then everything falls apart.”

The team has definitely been successful so far this season. The team just competed in a race in a duel against Girls Preparatory School in Chattanooga and crushed them. The novice got first, the varsity-4 (four-rower boat) got third out of the three, the novice-8 (eight-rower boat) got second and the double won.

“I am excited to see how the freshmen will do this season and I am really looking forward to another successful season,” said Namnoum.

However, rowing is not limited to the varsity crew team at Westminster. Many students, male and female alike, participate in rowing at independent clubs around the Atlanta area and train and compete year round.

“I have been at Atlanta Junior Rowing Association for two spring seasons so far and I hope to continue rowing there,” said sophomore Oliver Babb.

The AJRA practices in Roswell at the same place that the Westminster team practices. AJRA has some pretty lengthy and tough practices.

“We have six practices a week. One of them is an erg (rowing machine)/lifting practice, where we perform different pieces on the rowing machines. The others are when we do pieces on the water. We will do steady state pieces, which are long pieces meant to build up your heart rate. Other days we will do sprints, such as 6 by 1K’s,” said Babb.

The crew season for those at AJRA is a year-long commitment.

“There is fall and spring season at AJRA, but during the summer a lot of people go to rowing camps and compete in nationals,” said Babb.

Babb isn’t the only one in his family to pick up the fun and exhilarating sport. His sister Isabelle, graduate of the Class of 2014, rowed for Westminster’s team as well as AJRA’s. She now rows in college at the Naval Academy in Annapolis.

Babb didn’t just pick up the sport because of his sister.

“I like crew because it takes full advantage of physicality that one has. That is something I missed about tennis, there were people who were much smaller than me who I lost to and it was quite upsetting. I also like crew because I am in the best shape I have ever been in,” said Babb.

Along with several other rowers, Babb aims to continue competitive rowing at a college level. In fact, Westminster has had several students from each graduating class to commit to college for crew.

Notably, this year, Babb’s teammate, senior Ariane Fong, who is a coxswain for the AJRA varisty women team, will cox for Princeton University’s women’s team next year, and McKenzie Parks ‘15, who coxed for both Westminster and AJRA, is currently is a coxswain for Harvard University’s varsity women lightweight rowing team.