If we were playing a word association game, Wheaton Crew would find a match in the word “grit.”
Wake at 4 a.m. Drive 30 minutes to the Fox River. It’s 40 degrees; it’s raining. Thaw your frozen oar; be grateful you’re wearing six layers; get in the water. Row, bleed, sweat. Get back to campus for 8 a.m. class.
“What would it take for you to do that day in and day out, nobody cheering you on?” asks Coach Gary Bohlin. “There are very few sports students would do that for. That’s why I coach.” Ninety-five percent of the students on Wheaton’s Crew team have never rowed before, says Bohlin, who has coached Wheaton Crew for eight years. Bohlin says that the sport is an equalizer—no matter your athleticism, you can join.
Initiated 30 years ago in 1989, Crew is funded and organized by a loyal few, but it’s unlike any other Wheaton club sport.
Recalling the Head of the Charles Regatta, a race in Boston with more than 2,000 boats, alumnus Michael Morken ’15 takes pride in the quality of the competitions. “We’d regularly line up against programs from much larger schools.” The team is known to compete against schools like Northwestern and Texas A&M. But what really sticks with Morken is “the Crew culture of working together to overcome challenges.”
Charlotte Foote Fitzpatrick ’12—who remembers watching the sunrise on the Fox River after practice and sharing breakfasts with teammates after morning workouts—agrees.
“Crew taught me the value and importance of teamwork,” she says. “I began seeing how I personally could give of myself to contribute to the team, knowing that my level of commitment and effort had direct consequences on the success of the team.”