Editor's Note: Gig Harbor Patch's "Diary of a Paddler" column allows athletes from the Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak Racing Team to share their stories. Eva Munday is a flat water sprint kayaker on the team.
I had recently been communicating with college crew coaches across the country. Colleges recruit early for their rowing teams and several had contacted me.
I was not left with much time to ponder my options, because the day after we got home from trials my mom and I left for school-shopping on the East Coast.
We first stopped in New Jersey and then New Hampshire to visit Princeton and then Dartmouth. Both schools had entirely different atmospheres; Princeton was awe-inspiring and impressive while Dartmouth was much smaller and welcoming. Both schools, however, were amazing.
It was truly eye opening to be able to spend an entire day with members from each crew team, experience college life, and to get to know the coaches a little better. I met with Coach Betancourt, one of the women’s crew coaches at Princeton, and discussed my athletic future.
Later, after attending a psychology seminar and an art class, I had the privilege of joining Coach Betancourt on the launch to watch the crew’s practice.
It became immediately clear why Princeton’s seeded number one in the nation; I admit it was a bit intimidating to watch the teams practice, zipping up and down the river and through the 80 degree wind, watching the eights, fours and pairs.
I listened intently, absorbing everything Coach Betancourt said, trying to make sense of it (I had never watched anyone row before.)
The oars of the boats made hollow locking sounds as the crews surged forward. I was amazed at how the coxswain managed to get the athletes to dig deeper once they seemed completely depleted of energy, the stroke rate rising upwards every few minutes from 24, to 26, 28 and eventually 36.
From Princeton we drove to Hanover, New Hampshire (through the night) for a day at Dartmouth, where I went to a statistics seminar and an anthropology class.
I can honestly say that taking AP classes was the smartest thing I have ever done; I was not totally out of my academic league, which was reassuring to say the least. After class, I joined the rowing team for lunch, which was amazing (we got free burritos!)
The team reminded me of my friends back home, and I truly felt that, even if I had to go to college tomorrow, Dartmouth would be a really easy place to adjust to; the whole student body is so accepting and welcoming.
On the way back to the New Jersey airport, I began to think again about the decision I had to make about whether or not I should keep paddling.
Sitting in the passenger seat of our tiny rental car, in my Princeton t-shirt and my Dartmouth sweatpants, I thought again about the talk I had had with Coach Betancourt.
She had asked me “Is sport part of your identity?” and after realizing how much of my life was dedicated to athletics, how excited I always was to watch teammates race, how out of place I felt on the sidelines, it became very apparent that sports absolutely make up a large portion of who I am.
My rowing career began promptly upon our arrival back in Gig Harbor, about two weeks ago. I am training alone on an old erg (rowing machine) up at a small therapy center in the Harbor, the owners of which are nice enough to allow the Canoe and Kayak Team to use part of the building as a gym.
My workouts are a combination of those done by the Junior women at Pocock Rowing Center in Seattle and the weight workouts done by GHCKRT. All my training is focused on improving my erg score for the 2,000 meter time which is one of the criteria considered by college coaches when selecting recruits.
I’ve also got to prepare for camp. Ironically, when all the , I too will be arriving on the East Coast. On June 19th I will be attending the rowing camp at Princeton University, and I can hardly wait.
I have a long way to go but I am confident that my background with the Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak Racing Team has more than prepared me for the challenge ahead.
After all, racing is racing, no matter which direction you face in the boat.