November 8, 2017
Univ of New Hampshire; Rising from the Ashes with Gold Around her Neck
Cambridge, MA – We train for these moments. There are times in each of our lives as athletes that reinstate the love for our sport within us. Every fall one of the biggest rowing events in the world establishes the top youth, collegiate, international, and master rowers. The Head of the Charles is a race like no other, and I was lucky enough to attend it for the third time in my life. For the second year in a row I was able to cheer and support my team; the University of New Hampshire.
This year Cambridge, Massachusetts hosted the 53rd annual HOCR. Every year the race brings over 11,000 athletes, and tens of thousands of spectators. Yet, there’s more to the event than meets the eye.
Being on a rowing team is a lifestyle choice meant for those strong enough to endure its challenges.
While I did not race along the Charles, I did walk its distance taking photos, buying merchandise I probably could do without, meeting Olympic athletes, networking with rowing journals, and more importantly, supporting the UNH Women’s Varsity 4+.
Rowing was established at UNH in 1980 and the team has since raced and medalled in races all over New England. In 2004, the program fell on hard times and was threatened to be eliminated as an organized sport at the university. At that point the coaches, athletes, and alumni came together to stabilize the sport and purchased a new boat to symbolize the team’s revival. We continue to row this boat and our coaches still tell the story of The Phoenix today. Much like a phoenix, the UNH Rowing team rose out of the ashes to evolve into something greater than when it started.
Last year, the UNH Women’s Varsity 4+ finished with a silver medal, allowing this year’s group of five women to start in second place. Although this year’s oarswomen did not race The Phoenix, they lived up to its legacy: seniors Emily Lane, Sydney Michalak, Brianne Doherty, Emily Villeneuve, and sophomore Melissa Clivio-Wentrup, took home the gold crossing the finish line with an adjusted time of 18:20.141.
… every member felt a piece of the victory even though we didn’t all have our hands on an oar.
The work that was put into wearing those medals was not easy. From the moment I joined the team I knew it was something special; something bigger than me.
We train six days a week year-round from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m., often waking up before 5:30 a.m. to travel to our boathouses in either Durham or Dover.
Being on a rowing team is a lifestyle choice and is meant for those who are strong enough to endure its daily challenges. It is because of the challenges, both emotional and physical, the amount of time spent together, and the vulnerability in doing so, that makes being a part of the University of New Hampshire’s rowing team so special; no matter what your position is. This is why at this year’s Head of the Charles, well over half of our team attended the event to cheer on the women’s boat. This is why every member felt a piece of the victory even though we didn’t all have our hands on an oar.
“When our women won the gold medal I almost expected them to do as well as they did because I knew that they were already such a great boat from my perspective as a novice. I just saw a ton of love rush over everyone because our team as a whole took the win as well as the boat” said Olivia Balise, a freshman and novice rower at the University of New Hampshire.
Being an athlete and a teammate teaches one to be supportive and active within a group; a life skill that can’t be taught in any better way. Being an athlete, a teammate, and more specifically, a rower or coxswain, means to be a part of something bigger than yourself.
New Hampshire is not a crew that sits; we row hard, or die. Out of 36 crews, we rowed harder, and walked away with gold.
Images ©Meghan Murphy