By: Kelsey Knob
“Hands on,” my arms strap across the boat. “Up to shoulders,” the weight rolls from my waist to my arms. It burrows into the crease of my shoulder and wobbles for a few seconds before steadying itself. I signal the girl on my team behind me to start walking, and the boat beings to move. I dodge the traffic caused by the long shells being carried by the other teams. After walking for five minutes under the heat and pressure, I spot the dock in the distance. We steadily saunter down the hill hoping we do not slip. Staff members check our boat for any flaws and gives us the “okay”. Stepping onto the dock, it teeters under our feet; our feet stumble as we try to navigate our way around the wide cracks, revealing the water underneath of us.
I step my foot to the edge overlooking the waves of the small river dancing. “Roll-it over, ready roll.” The shell lowers and begins to slightly move up and down from the ripples. “Port oars out.” I reach for my oar and apply pressure to it until it clicks into the oarlock and slaps the water. “Sit in.” I outstretch my leg and step onto the platform made by microfibers. My body shifts to a crouched position on the seat as I strap my feet in and tighten my footboard. I make the call, and we push off the dock, sending the boat drifting with the current of the Schuylkill River. I grip my oars, turn around, and begin to steer the boat to the right spot.
The multiple crew members each have numbers on the bow of their boats. I find the number that is before me and let the boat come to a stop by digging in my oar. My boatmate and I have a conversation for a few minutes until staff starts to call out the teams and send them soaring down the river. “Villamaria, Wyra, “Newport.” We build up pressure at the sound of our team name until we have come to full speed. I yell out the sides to apply pressure, saying, “Portside pressure, starbird pressure.” At each call, I feel the direction of the boat shift a bit until we are straight. We pass the first boey stating “500 meters” which meant we had 400 more to do.
The sweat of my hands begins to make it hard for me to get a grip on my oars. The crowds of people watch rings in the distance, their cheers making me push myself harder. I spot another boey as I turn around to check my point: “1,000 meters.” Everything is going great until I feel the boat turn suddenly. I know this can only mean one thing… that the tape on the gutter beneath my boat is falling off. This only makes the row more difficult because I have to check every two strokes to make sure my boat is staying within the boeys. I begin to call pressure on sides at least every four strokes. The water begins to splash back at me from my boat mates oar, meaning she is becoming fatigue. The water drips down my face as it mixes with my sweat, creating the taste of salt in my mouth.
We begin to approach the Strawberry Bridge marking 2,000 meters. The opening is small and hard to steer, so I make sure to take extra precaution of our oars. One wrong move and it could cost us a flipped boat and a lost race. A shadow casts on the bow as we move under the bridge, the sound of cars echoing from above. We speed through the bridge with no flaws; I began to calm down once we pass the hardest part of the course, until I see the boeys mark a wide turn. I apply all of my pressure onto starboard side, hoping we do not cross the boeys. Halfway through the turn, my oar hits a boey and I begin to panic. Luckily I am able to steer away from the danger and recover. My breaths are short and weezy as we approach the last fifty meters of the race. I call a power ten to send the boat fleeting. Passing the stands, I look around to spot my team cheering for us. I smile, and we finish, proud and accomplished.