and camaraderie draw athletes to crew –even at the break of dawn
by Dave Girrard
From early morning workouts in the dark to
team breakfasts and bus trips to regattas, crew at PLU is all
about tradition and working together.
“There is a rich tradition,”
said Doug Nelson ’90, who was head coach from 1991 to 2000
and now assists with the program.
Rowers credit those who came before them,
including current head coach Tone Lawver ’95, with inspiring
them. Alums come talk to the team about the early days of the
Lute Rowing Club and the efforts to make it a varsity sport.
“We definitely admire the alumni,”
said Amy Hildebrandt ’05, co-captain of the women’s
team. “Without them we wouldn’t have a program.”
Team members appreciate the camaraderie of
the sport. All rowers have to be in sync for a boat to do well.
“We’re working together to achieve
a goal,” said David Bentsen ’06, who rows on the varsity
men’s eight and lightweight men’s four boats. “Every
little thing that happens affects everyone. You have to be in
tune with the other athletes.”
Hildebrandt said team members put all differences aside when it
comes to competing.
“When we’re on the water together
we click so well,” she said. “I have never been in
a sport that was so team focused.”
The varsity teams typically arrive at American
Lake – which has served as PLU’s home since the program
began – by 5 a.m. weekdays. The teams warm up around the
boathouse then carefully take the racing shells they will use
that day off their racks and down to the shore, about 150 yards
away. The varsity teams practice until 6:45 or so, when they go
to breakfast together then head to class.
Rowers get used to the early morning workouts
and plan their study, sleep and social schedules around them.
“It’s a sacrifice, but it’s
a priority for us,” Bentsen said. “It’s something
we all want to do.”
Team members make a point to eat meals together
and socialize. Crew members don’t have downtime on a field
to get to know each other like in many team sports.
“When we’re on the water we’re really focused,”
Bentsen said. “Off the water we’re a little more kicked
Both the men’s and women’s teams
have represented the university well at the conference, regional
and national levels. In 2002, the women’s team finished
fourth at the NCAA Division III national regatta, and in 2003,
the women won the conference championship for the second straight
The men’s team won the national small
college championships in Philadelphia in 2002. Both teams have
consistently performed well at regionals.
The men’s program started in the winter
of 1964. The women took to the water six years later. Because
the Northwest Conference doesn’t sponsor crew as a sport,
PLU competes in the Northwest Collegiate Rowing Conference along
with the University of Puget Sound, Willamette University, Lewis
& Clark College and several schools along the West Coast.
This year’s varsity teams consist of
16 women and nine men rowing in boats with four or eight members.
In the novice program “the numbers are huge,” Lawver
said. “We recruit heavily from the incoming freshmen to
fill the novice ranks.”
But because it’s a sport new to many,
the numbers drop as the season progresses.
Many rowers have achieved success after graduation.
Three former rowers have been inducted into the PLU Athletic Hall
of Fame: Doug Herland ’73, who became PLU’s only Olympic
medalist when he won a bronze as a coxswain in the 1984 Los Angeles
Games; Pam Knapp Black ’84, who became the first PLU rower
to win a gold medal at nationals and went on to compete for the
U.S. National team; and Dave Peterson ’74, a rower from
1971-74 and coach from 1975-85.
In addition, Bjorn Larsen ’03 won three
gold medals at the U.S. Nationals last summer as a member of the
Penn-sylvania Athletic Club in Philadelphia. Sarah Jones ’93
is entering her fifth national team appearance and is shooting
for her second Olympic appearance in 2004.
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