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Crew teams find early success

Nov. 16, 1999

Men's team finishes 2nd in first Austin regatta



The Baylor Rowing Club has accomplished a lot for its first competitive season this fall, despite the odds stacked against the group.

The Baylor Rowing Club began in the spring of 1998 under the leadership of Ryan Martin, a Richardson senior, and Vanessa Milliren, a San Antonio sophomore, and now has more than 45 members.

'Baylor is one of the only Big 12 schools without a varsity rowing team,' said Britta Spann, a Fort Worth junior. 'Many people associate crew with high quality colleges because of the number of private and Ivy League schools with rowing programs.'

Rowing is often referred to as crew, and members compete in boats with four seats and eight seats plus the coxswain, who gives the commands to the rowers. There are two methods of rowing: sweep, where each rower has one oar; and sculling, where each rower has two oars. Baylor crew members use the sweep technique.

Rowing competitions are referred to as regattas; teams compete in races that are 5000 to 6000 meters in the fall, and sprint races, which are 2000 meters, in the spring

'I was on the soccer team my freshman year, but had to quit because of my schoolwork. I joined crew because I still wanted to be part of a team,' said Lindsay Grant, a Littleton, Colo., junior. 'It's a prestigious sport, and I really like that.'

The men's and women's competitive teams participated in two 5000-meter regattas this fall. The first regatta, the Pumpkinhead (or Head of the Colorado), was Oct. 30 at Town Lake in Austin. The second regatta, the Head of the Chattahoochee, was Nov. 6 at Lake Lanier in Atlanta.

At the Pumpkinhead, the men's novice four-plus team (four men plus a coxswain) placed second out of five boats from Oklahoma State University, University of Texas and Rice University. The team included Bryan Fears, a Mauriceville senior; Brad Butcher, a Baytown senior; Nate Picklo, a Tomball freshman; Spencer Heasley, a Porter sophomore; and coxswain, Grant.

'Our success in Austin was a prime

illustration of our dedication and hard work at 4:45 in the morning,' said Fears. 'I felt really 'choctastic' after we won.'

The women's novice eight-plus team placed ninth out of 11 in the Pumpkinhead Regatta. This team included Spann; Milliren; Leia Polansky, a Fredericksburg senior; Joanna Knox, a Kasilof, Alaska, senior; Tara Samuell, a Houston junior; Elizabeth Butcher, a Baytown senior; Elizabeth Bowden, a Houston junior; Monica Nussbaum, a Huntsville junior; and coxswain Amanda Langham, a Burleson sophomore.

'When looking at the conditions the women's eight-plus rode under a heavier wooden boat, smaller blades and only a month of water practice, the team performed incredibly well with a time of just over 22 minutes,' Nussbaum said.

'We definitely did better than we expected,' Polansky said. 'And we earned a lot of respect from the other teams.'

In the beginning, members had to travel to Austin to practice rowing, but the club now owns a new four (rowing boats are called fours and eights), a used four, an old eight and two wooden eights on loan from Kansas State University. The members of the competitive team practiced this fall Monday through Friday from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m.

'The early morning practices are definitely not the best aspect of rowing, but you do what you have to do,' Spann said. 'The only thing really holding us back now is our equipment situation.'

Christa Crowe, a Denton junior, coaches the competitive teams; the non-competitive novice rowers are coached by Dr. Peter Van Walsum, professor of environmental science, and Dr. Jill Havens, professor of English. There will be an informal novice regatta at 9 a.m. this Saturday at the Baylor Marina with University of Texas and Rice's novice teams.

'This will allow our beginner rowers to experience a regatta in a safe and fun way,' Crowe said.