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Penn State Crew: Sunrise Workouts And A Team On The Up

For Penn State students interested in joining an organization with an avenue for competitiveness and a family atmosphere, get ready to row. Penn State Crew’s spring season is getting underway and now is a great time to join the team.

Penn State Crew is recognized as a club sport at Penn State, allowing all enrolled students to dip their feet in the water, so to speak.

“I think the most basic thing is that there is no experience required,” said Zach Corey, the president of Penn State Crew. “A lot of people are really intimidated at first when they think about crew because it’s not something that’s always offered in high schools because you need a body of water to row at.”

Luckily for interested students, the majority of the people on the Penn State Crew team join with no experience. Four coaches teach everyone the basic strokes, both on the water at Bald Eagle State Park when weather permits and in the White Building on rowing machines or “ergs.”

Penn State Crew’s head coach rowed at Purdue in his college days before coaching elsewhere and ultimately coming to Happy Valley. The team also has three student coaches, two of whom are graduate students with plenty of college rowing experience themselves.

And if you’re an early riser, you will like the practices.

“We carpool from Redifer, leaving campus at 5:30 a.m., get to Bald Eagle by 6:00, warm up and practice on the water by 6:30, and then we’re off the water by 8:00, back on campus around 8:30,” Corey said, and there’s plenty of reasoning behind this timing.

The early practices allow individuals on the team to continue to participate in other organizations or activities that they’re interested in, like THON orgs. You also need all of the team members in any given boat to be at practice to actually row, and the early morning is a time when no one has conflicts.

The Crew team has about 60 members, including the newer folks who just joined. The team is open to new, interested members, and anyone with the will to help the team is encouraged to join.

“Athleticism does help — it’s a hard and intense sport,” Utz said. “However, we’re just looking for really motivated and ideally competitive people, because it is a competitive sport.”

(A background in endurance sports doesn’t hurt, either.)

The racing schedule is generally structured so the team has a solid month of water training before competing. This schedule allows new members to get into the swing of things, while also bringing veteran rowers back up to speed after school breaks.

“We go down basically all over the east coast, mainly in the Philadelphia area,” said Maddie Utz, the team’s treasurer. “They’re all-day events, very similar to how a track meet is set up. There are different heats that go off and boats are lined up, especially in the spring season.”

The crew team’s big race in the spring semester is the Faunce Cup, named after Brian Faunce. Faunce was an Army ROTC student at Penn State who was killed in the line of duty after graduation. Penn State Crew was able to build a connection with West Point’s crew team in large part thanks to his memory.

“I think for the past six years now, we’ve gone back and forth between us hosting and us going to West Point, kind of in honor of Brian Faunce,” Utz said. “Within the past few years we’ve added some teams, just to try to make it a little bit bigger.”

The Faunce family comes to the race every year, speaking about the background of the race to the teams involved before proceedings are kicked off. There’s even a trophy that both Penn State and West Point compete for to add to the stakes.

Penn State Crew isn’t just about practicing and racing, though.

“One of the first draws to the team for me was the personal connections that you make because we practice six days a week for two hours a day,” Corey said. “The bonds that you’re able to form with everyone on your team are unprecedented compared to the bonds that you’d form with the people in your classes that you see every other day at most.”

Penn State Crew also has a THON family for those interested in a group that is very much FTK as well as community service outings. Of course, the physical shape you get into is not too bad, either.

“I joined the team not knowing anything about rowing and they became my family instantly,” Utz added. “I live with the people that I started with my freshman year. You really get to know each other and there’s a nice team and family aspect to it.”

Anyone who’s interested in joining the team should shoot them an email for more information.

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About the Author

Derek Bannister

Derek is a senior majoring in Economics and History. He is legally required to tell you that he's from right outside of Philly. Email Derek compliments and dad-jokes at [email protected].

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