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Yesterday at 4:00 I rushed out of class to my room and quickly slipped on four layers of spandex, sweatpants, and waterproof gear, gathered up my hat and gloves and headed over to Adirondack Circle.  When I arrived at the small loop in the center of campus, a group of 20 was already waiting for me.  We piled into a few cars and drove off to a stretch of Otter Creek outside of Vergennes.  Once we got to the creek, we waded in past our knees, and *gently* (as I yelled repeatedly) placed our boat into the ice cold water.  I spent the next two hours crammed into a three foot by one foot nook, the coxswain’s seat.

I joined the Middlebury College Rowing Club (or Crew Team as it’s more commonly known) as a wide-eyed freshman on campus.  My friend, Christina, had already joined the team and the novice women were scouring campus for a coxswain.  “You’re loud!” she said to me, “and small-ish.  Do you have any interest in joining crew with me?”

From the moment I agreed, my life at Middlebury changed dramatically.  As an athlete, I spend 3-4 hours a day at practice on weekdays and 12-14 hours on weekends travelling and racing.  The demanding schedule has forced me to prioritize.  Be it a lecture series I want to attend, Trivia Night at the Grille, homework glaring up at me expectantly from my desk, a road trip with friends to the Ben and Jerry’s factory, or a meeting as social chair of the International Students Organization, I am constantly evaluating what I do (and don’t!) have time to squeeze in around crew.   The sport has also taught me to be relentlessly organized and helps me maintain focus and perspective in all aspects of college life.

Crew, too, has brought out a dedication and passion in me that I never realized I had.  Spending every other week of my college career waking up at 4:30 am for morning practice has never been easy, but it is surprisingly fulfilling and unbelievably rewarding; with every practice, our boats get faster and with every season, our hard work shows in the results.  I have also had the good fortune of watching shooting stars fly over Lake Dunmore while gliding across the water in the pitch black, and watching countless sunrises with the backdrop of the lake and mountains, each seemingly more beautiful than the last.

In two days we will travel as a team to Lake Lanier, Georgia for our Spring Training.  In Georgia, we live in a small neighborhood of houseboats and practice 3 times a day.  Our first race of the season is on Atlanta’s Olympic racecourse at the Clemson Sprints, a nice opportunity to compete with teams we rarely get to see.  Before we know it, we’ll be racing our way through the rest of our spring season.

I can’t wait to be spending time with my team, to be doing what I’m passionate about, and to be racing again.  At the starting line of each race, I repeat a quote from Coach Noel Wanner to my boat, “Smile at the start because racing is the best thing there is.”  With a collective deep breath from my eight rowers, we’re off.

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