I went to Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester MA and was a member of the women’s crew team for all 4 years. We had a fall and a spring season, and it was the best thing I did in college. I started rowing the summer after my junior year of high school during a week long camp. Up until then, I had been playing tennis and competitively Irish Step Dancing annnnnnd my knees had just had it. I have patella femoral syndrome. Its really common in women who sorta grew really fast causing their hip/knee angle to be off. Basically my kneecap tracks diagonally, outside to inside, so there can be swelling & pain. My orthopedic dr did crew and actually suggested I do it in order to strengthen my quads. That summer, I fell in love with rowing at a camp at Northeastern University. Senior year I drove myself to CRI on the Charles 3 days a week after school to row with a program. College crew wasn’t something I randomly found at the activities fair during orientation, it was something that I looked forward to my entire senior year.
My senior year, I was captain of the crew team with my best friend. She was in my sorority, we studied abroad in Thailand our junior year together, and spent soooo many hours together for crew, we practically shared a brain. She passed away in 2008 from a heart problem. She just died in her sleep, very peacefully. My world was rocked, I was devastated. Those first two years out of college, we went to races together, supporting our team as alumni. We raced in the alumni race, hung out after for the cookout and then headed to campus for the rest of the homecoming activities.
After she died though, I couldn’t bring myself to do it anymore. The loss of her was so pronounced at crew activities. When we fundraised enough money to buy a boat and name it after her, I went to the homecoming race as a spectator and went in to the dark boathouse to visit her boat like a grave. This year though, I got dragged into the alumni race. I didn’t even have clothes, but people had spandex and a tshirt for me to borrow. It was so fun. I still cried when my former coach along with my best friend’s family announced the amazing endowment in her name that states there will always be a boat named after her for WPI crew. Grief is a strange thing. It sharpens and fades, like changing the focus of a photo from the foreground to the background. I am going to watch some of my fellow alums race at the Head of the Charles this year. It has taken me a long time, but my feelings of loss and sadness are starting to fall to the background and I am able to love crew again.
Here are some pictures from the race. It was an awesome morning 🙂