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The Perennial

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Taking the Oars: Aretha’s Love of Rowing

Billy Lloyd

   “Oh, you row? You must have really strong arms!” This is a statement every rower has heard at least five times in their rowing career. 

   Contrary to popular belief, rowing utilizes your whole body, primarily your legs, not just your arms. Most people are probably thinking of kayaking, a completely different sport. I know that’s what I was thinking of when I started rowing in eighth grade.

   With just two days of practice a week, I fell in love with the sport. Gliding through the water and hearing the click of the oars resound, I felt a connection to rowing that I had never experienced before. What was originally just a simple sign-up button eventually became something that I looked forward to every day after school.

   As I grew more committed, there was another aspect of rowing that I fell in love with: the team culture. There’s no other feeling that emulates the cheering of your teammates as you go into the last few hundred meters of your workout on the rowing machine. 

   Your heart beats in your throat. Your body feels like it’s about to give out. The only thing keeping you going is the fact that your teammates are watching. That’s when you tell yourself that if you give up, you’re letting the whole team down. And when the meters drop to zero, the crowd bursts into cheers. 

   But in the end, that feeling of accomplishment you gain after your workout is worth any amount of pain that you have to endure. When you’re able to say you gave it your all and have no regrets, that’s what true accomplishment feels like.

   This summer, I traveled across the country to race at nationals in Florida in a coxed quad, which is a boat with four rowers and a person who steers. The memory of lining up at the start line is still vivid in my mind. Taking a deep breath to calm my nerves, I could feel the damp air entering my lungs. The Florida sun seared my skin, and sweat collected in beads on my forehead. Looking left and right, I saw the other boats lined up, all nervously waiting. I looked at my teammates as we all gave knowing nods to each other: we got this. 

   A minute left.

   I thought of my coaches watching from the sidelines, my family watching back home and my teammates rooting for us. This is what I’ve been training for this whole year. This is what hours upon hours of practice has amounted to. This was it. 

   “Attention,” said the announcer. I braced my core, tensed my quads and took one final breath in. “Row.”

   Eight minutes went by. We placed eighth. Eighth in the whole nation. I couldn’t be prouder of my boat for our accomplishments. We did it.

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