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Women's rowing rises early

Imagine waking up at 5:30 every weekday, then rolling out of bed to head to 45 minutes of stretching and aerobic warmups. Just as the sun rises, you carry your craft down to the water, braving the winds and mist to row for another 90 minutes, mile after mile, stroke after stroke. What would possess you to do this? Just ask a member of Virginia's women's rowing team.

"Just to do crew takes a certain amount of craziness, I guess," sophomore Laura Scherberger said. "It helps when we are all out there together. We must be somewhat crazy, but we just keep coming back for more."

Related Links
  • Cavalier Daily full women's rowing coverage
  • Head of the Charles Regatta

    Women's rowing is Virginia's youngest varsity sport and enters its sixth year this fall. The women's rowing team consists of about 65 athletes, with 45 varsity athletes and 20 novices. The novice team, which is for new and inexperienced rowers, is unique as a Virginia sport in that it recruits heavily at the annual activities fair and during the first weeks of class, looking for athletes willing to give the sport a try.

    "It was definitely a bit of a change. All in all it has worked out well," said junior Meg Van Dam, who walked on as a freshman. "The coaches are wonderful. They both make sure that we are respectful and very humble towards our competition. One of the key things they stress, [that] though we are going out to win, they want us to do it quietly and humbly."

    The Cavs are coming off a third- place finish in last spring's NCAA finals.

    "No matter how well the fall goes, it is not the end-all," said coach Kevin Sauer, now in his sixth year. "Spring results are what gets you an invite to the NCAA. Fall racing is so that you can point towards something."

    Their focus this fall is the XXXVI Head of the Charles Regatta, Oct. 21-22. The team practices six days a week, including physical and technical training, in preparation for this race, called "the world's largest two-day rowing event." The Cavaliers will have four entries: one boat each in the championship eight, championship four, lightweight four and youth eight divisions. Racing in the Regatta, according to junior Haley Nunn, "is really exciting, because Boston is filled with rowers."

    This year, the championship eight boat will compete against the Dutch national team eight, the silver medallists at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The Cavaliers realize the strength of the Dutch team, but hope their boats will finish first among the collegiate competition.

    "Obviously we're shooting to be one of the top colleges in each event," Sauer said. "It's something to shoot for, aspire to, hope to do."

    In a sport where tenths or even hundredths of a second can be the winning margin, it is imperative that all team members work together in unison. This teamwork and dedication builds close bonds, both at the University and beyond. In previous years, the team has tutored other students and even cleaned the stadium after a football game - solely because they wanted to work together.

    "Definitely a camaraderie, I have to say that the people I row with are my closest friends, because we basically study each other with every stroke and know almost everything about each other," Van Dam said.

    After the Regatta, the Cavs will host the Rivanna Romp Nov. 12 at the Rivanna Reservoir, which is about five miles from Grounds.

    "The location allows friends, family to see the team in action. They don't really understand until they come down to the boathouse, to the water and see what we do," senior Jennifer Blomberg said.

    Preparing both for these competitions and for the spring regular season, a popular rowing phrase comes to mind: "Etes Vou Prete?" Translation: "Are you ready?" Morning after early morning, the Cavaliers build discipline and teamwork, eager to prove they are ready. As Scherberger said, "It definitely pays off in the end. There is nothing sweeter than crossing the finish line first"


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