As a college student, you have numerous sporting opportunities awaiting you. With all of the intramural, club, and for you special ones, varsity sports out there, the choices are endless. And you can experience sports that you’ve never tried before. One sport typically associated with college students is crew. Although the sport requires a tremendous amount of skill and physical fitness, the women’s crew team at the University of Maryland welcomes members of any skill set or experience.
“I took a bunch of late classes one semester, so I wanted something to get up early in the morning for and be more involved,” said sophomore Carrie Hildebrandt, the vice president of the team and someone who had no crew experience before college. “Some girls really want to be super-competitive, and their goal is to win a race. Some girls are more into just having fun, so if they win, they win, and if they don’t, they don’t.”
While Hildebrandt started crew with a clean slate, others on the team had different backgrounds. Junior Allie Bradford, the team development officer, had rowed in high school but took a year and a half off from the sport once she arrived on campus.
“It’s a big time commitment, so I was a little bit worried about adjusting to college and doing it,” she said. “But then I missed it too much, so I ended up back on the team at Maryland.”
A big-time commitment might be an understatement. The squad practices five days a week during the season at 5:00 a.m. That’s right – a few hours after you go to sleep at night, they’re out on the water working every muscle in their body. During the winter, they practice at 7:00 a.m.
“It usually attracts a certain kind of person –- not everyone is willing to get up at 5:00 in the morning,” Bradford said. “It’s usually very dedicated, borderline intense people who don’t have a problem committing completely to something, and giving up a lot for it.”
The Maryland women’s crew team is at the club level, but crew isn’t split up into your typical Division I, Division II, etc. Instead, when teams participate in meets, there can be Division I teams or club schools matched up against each other. Some teams in Maryland’s past meets aren’t even associated with a school, like the Baltimore Rowing Club.
“We compete against Lafayette, we compete against Duke, UVA, Virginia Tech,” Hildebrandt said. “Pretty much any school that has a rowing team, from North Carolina or South Carolina up through New York –- any of them can come to one of the races.”
In house, the members of crew get to bond over more than just working out and races. The members have dinners with the men’s crew team and other club sports on campus, organize a team for the Relay for Life every year and did the Polar Bear Plunge together at Sandy Point, Md. this year. The heat of competition also breeds the teamwork necessary to overcome the obstacles that face them.
“It’s really nice sticking with a boat all semester, because you really bond,” Hildebrandt said. “This semester I was with the lightweight boat and I was a coxswain, so I really got to know everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, and you gel together as a boat. And even though races are really painful and stressful…you get that really nice sense that you’re all working together, and everyone pulls hard for their teammates.”
That feeling and camaraderie is something they hold on to get them through one of the most grueling sports you can undertake, both physically and mentally.
“My favorite part is that it’s a team sport,” Hildebrandt said. “Every sport is team-oriented, but in crew, you can’t do it without the team.”