Human physiology major Max Davis knows the question by heart now.
“How in the world can you wake up that early?”
People are always curious how David and his club rowing teammates make it work. From 6 a.m. to 8 a.m., most students are sleeping comfortably or slamming their snooze button repeatedly, but Davis and the rest of the team are in a full sweat.
“It can be painful at times,” said Davis. “But when you’re there and working with the guys, it’s fun.”
During the fall and spring seasons, their day begins at 5:15 a.m. in front of McArthur Court. They take a bus to nearby Dexter Lake, get their practice in and return to campus around 8:30 a.m.
Even with this daunting schedule, the team continues to grow in numbers. The sense of unity, support and competitiveness among the teammates make club rowing one of the most storied programs at the University of Oregon.
“It’s so much more than rowing,” said senior Peter Blink. “It’s like a family and community.”
The family culture contributes immensely to the longevity and success of the program. The rowing team will celebrated its 50th anniversary next fall.
Men’s and women’s boats practice together and compete against other universities both regionally and nationally. Last season saw the men’s varsity team finish 3rd in the Pac-12 Championships.
“It’s good to be in that environment and against competitive teams,” said Davis.
The women rowers have long been an established and competitive team as well. In her first season as a freshmen — a “novice” in the rowing community — Annie Gilbert was part of a group that finished second place in nationals. Now a senior, Gilbert has practically seen it all and strives each day to get better.
“Coming into it, I didn’t really know where it’d take me,” said Gilbert. “It’s addicting to go as hard as you can and get these results.”
With over 70 students, club rowing is one of the largest club programs on campus. The men’s and women’s teams consist of multiple boats. Top rowers normally compete on the same boats.
Even with all its past and current success, the rowing team actively recruits all types of interested rowers, no matter the skill or experience level. Gilbert wanted to get involved on-campus, joining eight weeks into her freshman year. Blink, on the other hand, joined during his third year at UO.
“I was just going through the motion of going to classes,” said Blink. “I was searching for a close knit community.”
That sense of community appears to be thriving. Even with the time commitment involved, it’s easy to see why many rowers stick around.
“Nothing bonds people more than putting your heart and soul out for every race,” said Davis.