A year out from Duke Women’s Rowing and it is incredible to see how much the program has changed. It’s easy to see that the program is growing with the addition of the new boathouse, coaching staff and large squad size but, I never thought so much could change in a single year
I visited the team when they were hosting Tennessee this past Fall and it was encouraging to see so many people in small boats. I’m a firm believer that small boats work wonders for big boat racing not only in technique, but also in forming camaraderie between teammates. Some of my greatest rowing memories came from pair practices and races with Rory or Claire, when we finally “clicked” and everything seemed to come together. Don’t get me wrong, it took plenty of blood, sweat and the occasional curse word to get “it” but once we found “it”, we were golden. Now multiply that times 30 and you can understand my excitement. It was easy to see leaps and bounds being made in the girls’ technical skills but if you looked hard enough, you could also see the formation of trust between partners. Additionally, I have to admit it was strange being on the spectator side of the sport after being a competitor for so many years. It makes me even more grateful for every race that my parents made it to just to see two minutes of action (albeit very exciting action).
When the team came to Miami in January I couldn’t wait to see a lot of my old teammates and meet some new faces. Unfortunately, their trip coincided directly with the Orange Bowl and I feared that I’d miss them completely. Thankfully, the game fell on a Friday so after working into the wee hours of Saturday morning, sleeping for a few hours then working all day Saturday (sounds A LOT like the schedule of a student-athlete) I woke up early on Sunday morning and made the drive to Miami Beach. Nostalgia slowly crept in as I drove over the bridge and onto Collins Ave because the last time I had been there was for my final winter training trip during my senior year. Contrary to popular belief living in Miami and going to Miami Beach are not the same thing, and I try to avoid it like the plague.
After sitting in the launch and watching practice for an hour Robyn began making switches between boats and I was getting antsy. Jokingly I said, “Put me in coach!” and about 5 minutes I found myself sitting in six seat, some things never change. I can’t exactly remember what we were doing (pieces of some sort) because I was too focused on not catching a crab but it’s remarkable how quickly that competitive instinct comes back. I had no idea how my boat was going to stack up against the other boat but I knew that I wanted to win every piece. The whole time I was probably rushing my stroke, breaking the knees early and catching just a little too late, but all I could think about was the fun I was having. It was so great being back in an atmosphere where everyone is completely focused on the same collective goal.
During the spring season I watched every race that was streamed online and screamed at my computer multiple times. I may have graduated and moved on but it’s impossible to forget about DWR. I don’t think I’ll make it up to North Carolina this year so I’ll be counting down the days until everyone back in Miami. And hopefully, if I play my cards right, Robyn will let me back in the boat.
- Emily Theys Class of 2013