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CSU’s tight-knit crew team rows to success, camaraderie

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Photo courtesy of Colorado State University Crew

Although an often overlooked sport, the Colorado State crew team — also known as rowing — fosters a sense of belonging through the early morning practices and the difficult exercises the team endures together.

The team is currently in their winter and indoor season, which takes place from November to April or May, depending on the temperature. Regulations state the combined air and water temperature must equal 90 degrees or higher. The team has been lucky in avoiding frigid temperatures in the past.

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“When you’re in a boat, it’s paramount to be synchronized, and if you’re not synchronized, then you’re letting your team down,” rower Oscar Wenham said. “I think there’s a lot of motivation to do a great job, which kind of helps you push yourself.”

One of the more challenging aspects of this team sport is that the team is dependent on all rowers. If one rower is lacking, the whole team pays for it, as subbing out a player during the middle of a match isn’t an option. 

“It looks difficult, and it feels difficult, but it’s such a beautiful sport,” crew team President Caroline Collignon said. 

The tryout process for the team is much more simple than some might expect.

“We take pretty much anybody regardless of experience,” Collignon said. “If you’ve never rowed before in your life, that’s totally fine with us.”

The team has found it easier to recruit members when there are less strict guidelines that people must meet to join the team. Despite the easy process, crew can be a rigorous activity, especially when a rower is the coach and president.

“I kind of just took a risk, and it was probably the best decision I’ve ever made.” – Oscar Wenham, crew rower

Former coach John Truslow retired last spring, leaving Collignon to fill the coach’s shoes while the team searches for another volunteer coach. 

“It’s kind of hard to find somebody to convince to be up at Horsetooth (Reservoir) at 4 (a.m.),” Collignon said. “We don’t have the funds to pay for a coach, so it’s a volunteer coach position, basically.”

Despite this, Collignon continues to create practice plans and lead the team of 24 the best she can. 

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Elections are being held this week to see if Collignon will continue her role as president, with one opponent running against her. 

Collignon was originally the peer education development officer, then rose to vice president her sophomore year and currently serves as president. 

The rowers who are now in Collignon’s previous position of peer education development officer are Keenan Loflin and Seth Schripsema.

As peer education development officers, Loflin and Schripsema present to the entire crew team about ways for the team to feel safer and teach the new members about crew and their competitions.

“I was just looking for something fun to do at CSU but something that I’ve never really done before,” Loflin said. “Crew was just on my radar.” 

The team competes in both indoor and outdoor regattas: indoor on the rowing machines and outdoor on whatever body of water is big enough for the boats. The different competitions available are men’s and women’s eight, men’s and women’s four and mixed, which is composed of both men and women.

“We all have a goal that we want, and we all want to push for that as hard as we can, and we’re all just there for each other,” Loflin said. “So it really makes it worth it.”

The team does not currently practice during the summer, but Loflin and Schripsema are trying to change that.

Most of the team is staying in Colorado and could gain an edge on the competition through summer practices.

“The people on the rowing team who really love it really make it worth it, and they put in a lot of effort, and that just makes you really want to put in that much effort,” Loflin said.

For Wenham, this is only his first semester on the team, but he has already found a place within the team.

“I kind of just took a risk, and it was probably the best decision I’ve ever made,” Wenham said. “I love, love, love CSU.”

Wenham originally began to row in high school back in Minnesota and found his way back to the sport as a junior.

“Horsetooth is just a beautiful, beautiful place, and in an effort to try to get more time outdoors with my busy schedule, I thought, ‘What better way to get in shape, be a part of a team and enjoy Horsetooth?'” Wenham said.

Wenham is currently not an officer but sees himself becoming a peer education development officer.

“I think it’d be a really great opportunity to give back and maybe impact a student,” Wenham said.

The mix of physical work, a supportive team and spectacular views is just the tip of the iceberg of why the sport is so impactful and resonates with the team. 

“I always say, ‘Once you row, it’s hard to not go back and row,’” Collignon said.

Reach Sophie Webb at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @sophgwebb.

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