First-place caliber crew

President Megan LaBarge has high hopes for the Oswego State Crew Club this season. Despite losing several key seniors, the team remained competitive and finished first in September’s Head of The Hudson regatta in Albany.

The first place finish in Albany was unusual because the team had only one boat of four ladies in the water. Usually there are several boats in multiple races. Katherine Webster was part of the winning boat and said the 20 or so teammates that came to watch and cheer helped make the difference for the team. The girls in the winning boat had experience and worked really well together for the race, LaBarge said.

"We were all very nervous because the four of us had never raced together," Webster said.

Now the team sets its sights on the Head of The Fish meet on Saturday, Oct. 30, in Saratoga. Several novice boats are expected to compete at the regatta, which is one of four meets the team will compete in this semester. Crew teams row three or five kilometers in boats of four and eight. The fall is the peak season for crew, while spring is generally reserved for offseason training.

The teamwork, support and competitive drive the team sports at regattas combines with an intense discipline back at school that makes for a unique group of competitors. In the early dawn hours of the morning while most students are still sleeping, the men and women of the crew club are already out on Little Sodus Bay in Fair Haven for rowing practice, which takes place several times a week. The team never rows on Lake Ontario because it is too choppy for the boats it uses. They also spend four nights a week in Lee Hall working on conditioning with simulated rowing machines.

The team must contend with additional challenges that many clubs do not, including transportation and expensive equipment. The team is a Student Association funded organization, not a sports team, meaning they must buy boats and rent a space to store their equipment. The team recently purchased a new boat to replace one on loan. The cost of the new boat was in the tens of thousands of dollars.

One of the biggest hindrances to the club remaining competitive is also what makes for such a unique and diverse group of people.

"We accept anybody in the club even if they have no rowing experience at all," LaBarge said. "Obviously we try to be as competitive as we can be, but it’s also about learning the sport and doing your best as well."