Rowing catching on at Cal College
By Anthony D. Alonzo Post-Tribune correspondent September 12, 2012 11:28PM
Calumet College of Saint Joseph Rowing Club members talk about prospective rowers that signed up for the crew at the Whiting school's student activity fair on Sept. 11. The club was formed in 2011.
Updated: October 15, 2012 9:40AM
It wasn’t long after Maryland transfer Joan Crist began teaching at Calumet College of Saint Joseph that she got the itch to go rowing.
Crist’s expertise is in the sport of competitive rowing, where a highly-coordinated team can send its boat racing at high speeds. She wanted to build a team at the Whiting school.
Rowing, also known as crew, is one of the oldest Olympic sports, and has its competitive roots in Europe. Though it’s gaining popularity in the United States, it is often seen as a sort of regal activity found at older colleges. Crist said one thing is certain: it’s not an easy thing to do.
“Rowing looks easy, but it takes a long time to learn,” said Crist, who was a student crew member at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Md. “Either people confuse it with canoeing or kayaking or when you watch the Olympic rowers, they make it look easy.”
Crist had secured the use of a racing boat or shell, from a friend in Chicago. That the craft needed to be refurbished was an understatement she said. Then last year, after floating her rowing idea to groups of Cal College students, she put together a basic crew.
Destinee Reyes, then a freshman from Highland, stepped up to join the team as president. Antonio Salgado of Hammond later agreed to become vice president.
In just a short time, Salgado said he’s experienced a lot of fun with the sport.
“We had one practice that, 25 minutes in, the rain started coming down and the water got all choppy,” said Salgado. “We got splashed by our boat and our oars were picking up water. Believe it or not, that was probably the best practice I had. We felt everything: the water on you, plus the sweat. It was a different experience.”
Crews of either four or eight rowers sit facing the back, or stern, of the boat and are accompanied by a coxswain, or coach, who faces them and steers. Teammates have nuanced roles that together form a machine-like propulsion system. Long, lightweight oars are used and are made of a similar carbon-fiber reinforced plastic that composes the shell.
Elvy Smith was originally interested in attending CCSJ so she could be a part of the Crimson Wave bowling program. While on campus, she heard about the new crew.
“(My fellow bowlers) know I don’t like to sweat or break my nails and I don’t run often,” said Smith, with fellow crew member Emilio Jasso looking on. “This is the first thing that’s made me go to the gym. When I told them they just stopped and said, ‘you?’”
Conveniently, within walking distance of the school is Wolf Lake. There, at the Illiana Yacht Club, the group launches its shell. Crist said it is a fine venue for rowing, though it tends to get a bit windy on the water.
By last May, the group had its rhythm in-sync and provided visitors at the Wolf Lake Bi-state Wetlands, Wind and Water festival with a successful crew demonstration. The group has yet to enter a timed race event, or regatta.
Until then the group has its work cut out for it. Crist has advised the members to hit the ergometers to keep their push-extended-pull-push rowing motion up to speed. And the Wave look to enhance the gear that they hope to rely on in the years to come.
“A coach will carry life jackets on a boat that goes along side of the rowers in case something happens and so you can see them from the side,” said Crist, adding that fall practices will be kept to shallow water. “After going to a U.S. Rowing Association coaching clinic, I feel that (getting a boat) is among our highest priorities.”
For more information about the CCSJ Rowing Club, call Joan Crist at 473-4304 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.