If you’ve ever seen the movie The Social Network, then you’ve seen how Mark Zuckerberg developed Facebook and became a billionaire. You’ve also witnessed the scene where the Winklevoss twins sit in a boat and pull back the oars with strength and perseverance, engaging in one of the oldest sports: rowing.
While the origins of rowing, or crew, lie in the United Kingdom, the sport is surprisingly popular in Australia, New Zealand, Germany and the northeastern United States. But, believe it or not, rowing is even becoming popular in a little city called Dayton, Ohio.
Senior Firebird Jenna Beavon joined the Greater Dayton Rowing Association two years ago, although Head Coach Alex Walters says the club has been around since 1992. Other Fairmont members of this rowing club include senior Taylor Pitzer and sophomore Julia Turner.
“My favorite part of rowing is that I can do it for the rest of my life,” said Beavon. “I love the team I row with and the opportunities this sport has offered me.”
Some of these opportunities include traveling to Canada to row in the Royal Canadian Henley, a major international race for junior rowers. While Beavon didn’t place in Canada, she has received 14 medals for rowing in the United States, and nine of those are first-place medals. Her medal collection also includes two gold medals for the Midwest Erg Sprint and one bronze and one gold medal for the Midwest Junior Championship Regatta.
“Erging is the use of the rowing machine when weather doesn’t permit us to be in boats on the river,” Beavon explained. “Erg sprints are like races on the rowing machine. You see what distance you can pull in a certain amount of time.”
A regatta is a boat race, usually spanning 2 kilometers or 5 kilometers. In a regatta, several rowing clubs come together and race each other on the water. “Rowing on the water is a lot more fun, but you can often make great physical leaps of development when spending time on the erg,” Beavon said. “We do erg sprints on the rowing machines for 2,000 meters. I can pull that distance in seven and a half minutes.”
Beavon participates in six two-and-a-half hour practices per week as a Varsity rower, and she usually races in a double or quad, meaning she races with one to three other people in her boat. “We also do Land Days, which include of a lot of jumping, running, and ab workouts,” said Coach Walters.
“Crew is unique because not many people have heard of it. It’s difficult because it’s a full body workout and technical developments can be tedious,” Beavon said.
Beavon’s coach agrees that rowing is a very physically demanding sport, but he also thinks the mental strain is intense. “I think one of the hardest things about crew is the mental capacity it takes,” Walters said. “You really have to push past the pain and continue on. There were guys I rowed with in college who would cry and throw up once their regatta was over, but they had to hold that back the whole time.”
Women’s rowing is a fast-growing college sport, so Beavon’s love of crew may help pay her way in higher education. She wants to continue rowing in college, and she’s already heard from schools across the nation, including Louisville, Iowa, Stanford, MIT, Harvard, Boston and Nova; all but Nova are Division I schools. According to ScholarshipStats.com, 104 Division I and II colleges had 5,984 female rowers in 2012, although not all of them were on scholarship. About 30 percent of the women rowers at Division I schools have an athletic scholarship, and almost 60 percent of the Division II female rowers are on scholarship, reports sportsscholarship.com.
Even if a young person doesn’t aspire to row in college, Beavon encourages those interested in the sport to give it a try.
“If you ever decide to try rowing, don’t be afraid to make mistakes,” she said. “If nothing else, it’s a lot of fun.”