I’m using this particular fun fact for two reasons. First, because I was just reminded of it by a friend and teammate, and second, because the crew team’s first race is this coming Saturday, so the topic of mascots seemed appropriate.
If you look at the women’s crew team’s three-page, color-coded spring training plan, you would see that we’re already halfway down the second page. We’re seven weeks through the thirteen-week season (which doesn’t include the four-week post-season, although we certainly have that in our minds as we aim for our thirteenth consecutive bid to the NCAA Championships). For a lot of people, it’s weird that we’re at this point in the semester – right after the halfway mark, three-quarters of the way through the school year – and we haven’t even raced yet. What have we been doing, stuck in the erg room, blasting music through windows gaping to try and exhale body-heated air? Why have we spent so many mornings up before sunrise, in the rain, in the cold (or, alternatively, in the monochrome of a clouded sunrise or the glory of a clear one, pinks and golds over American Lake)?
My older sister started rowing when she was a sophomore in high school because there were cute boys on the team. I joined the team the next year, when I was a freshman, just to give it a try. I didn’t intend to stick with it all through high school, and the thought of being a collegiate student-athlete never even crossed my mind. (Possibly because I wasn’t very good.)
As a senior at Puget Sound, I’ve been realizing (but also sort of trying to avoid thinking about) how much this last season means to me. Every season has been important – even choosing to study abroad, which was during a fall semester and therefore not a championship season, was difficult. After my freshman year, when I had seen our opponents (on both the regional and national level) and understood the history and the traditions of this team, both of which can be boiled down into “we like winning things and goofing off while doing so,” I knew that I wanted this team to be better by the end of my college career than it was when I had joined. And we weren’t exactly slacking at that point, either.
So that’s why my alarm is set for 4:30 am. Because I am not a naturally athletic person, and I know that I need to put in a lot of work if I want to keep improving. And I want to know that, when we line up against Western Washington and PLU and Lewis and Clark and Humboldt State (whose mascot, incidentally, is the Lumberjack – a term specific to the East Coast, therefore giving us the pedantic high ground over them) and whomever else that we are well prepared. As Thomas Jefferson (allegedly) said, “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”