Club Sport Focus: Crew team uniquely dedicated

It's 5:30 a.m. on a Monday, and while most of us are still asleep before heading off to classes, the Geneseo club crew team is just beginning another one of their grueling two-hour early morning practices. Such is the life for these dedicated rowers.

"A lot of us on the team joke that as a rower, crew is your life," said club President Cait Domagal, a junior.

With the early practices Monday through Friday and then additional mid-morning practices on Saturday, it's hard to disagree with such a statement.

As a club team, the squad has been competing mostly against Division II and III schools throughout the region since their formation in 1990. They are an SA-funded organization, but still need to do additional fundraising on the side to cover the high cost of competing. Such fundraisers include an annual car wash, a fundraising dinner, a clothing sale and an ergathon, when members of the team take turns on a rowing machine in a public place and find sponsors for the time. All members all also required to pay dues each semester and are responsible for buying their own uniforms.

"Crew is a very expensive sport, and money is troublesome for us sometimes," said Domagal. "It's hard to compete at a club level against DII-DIII schools who provide transportation, meals and uniforms to their rowers. But SA and Geneseo's administration have been very supportive of us, for which we are extremely thankful."

Recruiting also poses some issues for the club. Many of the team members come aboard with little to no experience, mainly due to the lack of popularity at the high-school level. The club usually recruits at the summer orientation expos and the activities fair on campus. With all the complexities of the sport, the club tries to recruit new members for the fall season to allow for maximum training time.

Despite these obstacles, the crew club is able to maintain a year-round schedule of meets and practices. Each semester, the team will usually attend four weekend regattas. The fall season is focused around the long-distance events and in the spring the team competes in sprint events.

After training in Georgia over Spring Break, the team has enjoyed a solid start to their spring season. The men's four-person boat and the women's eight-person boat placed third at the two opening regattas. With only one senior graduating, the team hopes to build upon this year's success as they move forward into next year.