At 6 a.m., the sun has not yet ascended from the eastern horizon of Lake Superior, but there is a familiar sight on the lake. Eight pairs of powerful arms propel a shell across the glass surface of the lake. It soon becomes apparent that the NMU crew team is rowing hard through their two-hour morning practice, their first since the fall rowing season.
The coxswain, stroke, engine room and bow pair all operate in harmony, pushing toward the same goal-a win in the upcoming regatta.
If the rowers all perform in sync, the boat’s motion will be as fluent as the water it is moving upon. Teamwork is the key to success. But the importance of teamwork does not only apply when the rowers are on the water.
The NMU crew team, coached by Daryl Davis, is a member of the NMU Sports Club Association. As opposed to participants on major teams, club members must foot the bill for their sport.
Club members are also responsible for organizing and governing their groups. This leaves the team captains, seniors Melissa Fuller and Andrzej Brzoznowski, in charge.
“We have sort of a daunting task of putting together boat groups for regattas,” Fuller said. “We have to get registration in. We have to make sure entry fees are paid on time and get people organized to travel.”
The team is a university club team and must also meet occasionally with the recreational sports department at the PEIF.
The preparation for competition is even more intense and the team readies for regattas by following personalized training plans that are prepared by senior Cassie Webb, a crew member and sports science major. The plans focus on different areas during the regular season and the off-season.
In the fall, the team takes part in six-kilometer races, focusing on endurance and technique. The group also does some on-water training during this time.
In the winter, the crew members train indoors to prepare for the spring, working on their aerobic and anaerobic capacity.
When spring finally arrives, the team takes part in two-kilometer sprint races.
As a regatta approaches, the captains must prepare their teams for their individual races. Brzoznowski often calls his team together for a meeting before a regatta.
“We’ll gather the team around and tell them the importance of the race, our goals and what we’re trying to accomplish,” he said. “We start talking about what we’re going to do, how we’re going to race. As captain, I don’t like to dominate that so much as the leadership because we are a very tight group. Everyone knows what’s expected of them.”
On race day, a team effort is required ashore before anything beneficial can happen on the water. Coach Davis relies on each rower to do something in order to assist the team, whether or not they will be participating in a race.
“It’s a question of getting there, getting things unloaded, getting the rigging on, getting everything adjusted,” Davis said. “There’s quite a bit of coordinating, getting one team off the water and the next one out. Usually, we have a couple of crews out at once and we’ll usually hit a point at a typical regatta where there are only two people left on the beach.”
Just getting to races from Marquette can prove to be difficult, as traveling long distances is often required to participate in regattas.
The team even drove through the biggest snowstorm of the winter to get to a spring training event in Oak Ridge, Tennessee last March.
Previously, the group would have had to use personal vehicles. Since last fall, though, they have been able to rent university vans, which have made the trips much more comfortable and easy to coordinate.
The long trips tend to pay off, though, and already this year, the team consistently competes with some of the nation’s largest varsity teams.
On April 15, at the Bent Hammer Ice-Out Regatta in De Pere, Wisc., both the Men’s and Women’s four-seat boats placed first ahead of Lawrence and St. Norbert colleges and the Women’s eight-seat boat placed second behind Lawrence.
Then on April 21, the team raced in a regatta at Lake Wingra in Madison, Wisc.
In the women’s novice eight-seat final, Northern finished in sixth, while the University of Wisconsin Lightweight A-team took first.
In the men’s novice eight-seat final, the Northern men also finished sixth. The University of Wisconsin A-team won the event.
As a club team going up against varsity teams, the group from NMU will have many chances to gain acknowledgment within the university community as well as the rowing community.
“It’d be nice to get some more recognition,” Brzoznowski said. “People within the university and community who aren’t involved in club sports don’t always know the kind of effort that we put into them. We all put a good deal into our teams and practice.”