In February 2015, the UO club rowing team successfully met its goal of collectively rowing one million meters—more than 600 miles—in one day, to raise funds for its trip to the national championships in Georgia.
This year, it is upping the ante.
The self-funded team plans to row 4.2 million meters—the distance from Eugene to Gainesville, Georgia, where the 2016 American Collegiate Rowing Association [ACRA] National Championships will be held—in its second annual Erg-A-Thon on Feb. 21, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Student Recreation Center.
Students, faculty and members of the Eugene/Springfield community are invited to join the team, learn about the sport and contribute meters to the goal. Prizes, such as gift cards from local restaurants and a Patagonia Oregon Rowing backpack, will be raffled off.
Participants who row more than 10,000 meters will receive a T-shirt personalized with the number of meters they rowed. Customized T-shirts and raffle tickets will also be available for purchase.
A donation booth will be set up for attendees who want to help the team raise funds for its trip to the national championships or give to Relief Nursery, a non-profit child abuse and neglect prevention agency. Any type of donation, including children’s clothes and canned food, will be welcomed.
Chipotle and Costco will supply food for the event.
Rower Emi Purice said the Erg-A-Thon is a way for the team to promote itself as well as help out in the community.
“We’re a huge group and we can create an impact,” Purice said. “We have the manpower; why not help out the community and do some good.”
The team of 65 members has made great strides in the past year to boost its stature in the realm of college rowing. For the first time ever, it was invited to partake in the Pac-12 Rowing Championships in Lake Natoma, California this coming May. Despite being a club team, it competed against big-budget Division-I schools, such as Michigan and Virginia, at the ACRA National Championships last year and finished third.
Purice said the “biggest stigma” about club sports is that they’re just for hanging out and having fun.
“Club is competitive. The only thing that separates club from D-I is funding,” Purice said. “As a club, we do compete against D-I teams and we do really well against them.”
UO club rowing currently does not intend to become a Division-I team. If it did, Purice said, its current coaching staff would likely be replaced and those interested in the sport would be unable to join.
Anyone who shows commitment and the ability to bond with teammates has the opportunity to join the program. Most who join have no rowing experience going into college. Purice said cuts happen naturally due to the rigid structure by which the team abides, which includes 6:00 a.m. practices and 20 hours of training per week.
“Rowing is not a sport where you can bring ego, because ego will not get you anywhere,” Purice said. “Once you’re in the boat, you pull for each other.”
UO club rowing recently received a $30,000 grant from ASUO that enabled the purchases of 11 new ergs, survival suits for coxswains, a new motorboat for coaches and new oars—items that were “unimaginable just three years ago,” head coach Marlene Kindorf said via email.
Rowing has also gained several sponsors, including KIND Bar, Run Gum, Umpqua Oats, Bob’s Red Mill and Nancy’s Yogurt, some of which will have booths set up at the Erg-A-Thon.
The new funds and equipment will help UO club rowing continue to grow into a perennial national contender.