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Rowing Through the Storm

Last Sunday the crew team traveled up north for the annual Leelanau regatta. Due to last year’s disrupted COVID season, many of the rowers had never been to this particular regatta. But, thanks to the alumni rowers’ encouragement, this year’s team was looking forward to the races.

However, once arriving at Lake Leelanau early Sunday morning, after waking up at five in the morning, many rowers lost the excitement they had felt only a few days before. Grey skies loomed above – threatening rain. All while the lake’s waves slammed against the dock and washed over its edges. It seemed as though storms made up the unavoidable forecast.

Although the weather was harsh, boats were still sent out into the rolling water – forcing rowers to battle against the crashing waves. Katelyn Douglas (‘24) gave some insight into her feelings during one race. “It was a lot choppier than usual considering that we usually practice on a river. It was a bigger body of water and unfamiliar terrain.” Many other rowers felt this way. Because of the rough water, boats struggled to compete in the 4300-meter race, especially during one segment where the boats had to make a 90-degree turn, which caused waves to rush into the boat and fill it with water.

One of the Eastern coxswains, Layal Saab (‘24) also spoke about her experience. As a coxswain, it is her job to help steer and call out the moves the rowers will take during their races; she talks, coaches, and explains what speeds to take. “I was really stressed during the regatta with how it was planned and with the [number] of boats entering and pulling out [of races]. The course was very [challenging] because of the amount of waves, but you would just have to push through it.”

Even with the unpredictability of the water and weather, the Eastern crew team still medaled in several races. A men’s novice four boat placed third, and the women’s single, rowed by Lindsey Soet (24’), placed second, along with a women’s pair. The mixed middle school eight placed first. “I was really proud of all of them,” mentions Sadie Brinks (24’). “The [regatta] taught us how to deal with a stressful situation and make the best out of it using what we know.”

After every storm comes the sun, and this regatta was just another example of that. Although the day may not have started the way that rowers and coaches wanted it to, by the end, everyone was able to take away a valuable lesson that will help them in the future. Teamwork, faith, and practice were all used on Sunday to help hold and support the team to ensure that everyone was able to take a memorable experience from Leelanau.

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