Rowing Club starts season with big freshman turnout

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David Lyon, the rowing club's public relations manager, during rowing session. Photo courtesy David Lyon

The Chico State Rowing Club is back for its fifth season. This year, though, the club is bigger than ever.

Many varsity rowers are returning from last year, but with the majority graduating this spring, it had to recruit to find replacements. Thirty novice rowers tried out.

“This is our biggest recruiting year ever and it’s really exciting,” said Karl Pfeifer, the team’s new co-president. “The whole team is very motivated to do really well.”

He became interested in rowing during summer orientation with Nathan Sandoval, the club’s current novice coach and last year’s president, Pfeifer said.

Pfeifer was looking for something challenging and wanted to really get involved with a team sport, which describes rowing adequately, he said. Teammates have to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and always look out for each other to make sure they do not drag down the boat.

David Lyon, the club’s current public relations manager, said that rowing requires a totally different motion than most are used to. He joined after seeing a student crew.

“I was looking for something to do with my free time and I kind of stumbled upon it,” said Lyon, who won silver in pairs out of 16 schools last year at the Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships.

Most people start rowing once they get into college due to the fact that no public school is able to provide for the sport.

“It is a slow start because you are learning a new motion,” said Michael Campbell, team captain of the rowing team. “It is not like running or throwing where you are familiar with that motion your entire life.”

There is a large workload associated with the sport, he said.

“You work all season for maybe one or two races at the end of the season which could be eight minutes each,” Campbell said.

Fall season consists of three 5K races, but spring season is when the club really aims to maximize efficiency, Pfeifer said.

The spring season only consists of 2K races and includes the club’s biggest race of the year: a Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association race in Sacramento, which is where Lyon and Daniel Neufeld got their silver medal last season.

With many freshman novices, the future looks reassuring for the club in the future.

“The new flock of novice men and women are super motivated, which is promising for spring and the future of the team,” Lyon said.

The club will begin another season with head coach Colleen Milligan, an ex-coxswain, who is the person who steers the boat. She is currently a professor with the forensic anthropology department at Chico State. She has been coaching since the club began five years ago.

The club has been attempting to become a school-sanctioned sport because it is coed and has been doing most of its funding on its own. It has been allowed to use the Feather River Rowing Club’s equipment and boathouse.

Last year the club did not have lights, so early morning and late night practices were lit with lanterns so members would not crash into the docks, according to Lyon.

Pfeifer said that despite those little details, he is excited for the season and the future.

“This is a growing year for us with all the new novice,” Pfeifer said. “We see so much potential and we are excited for that.”

Samuel Wolfson can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_sports on Twitter.