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Senior Rowers Reflect On Their Four Years At Drake

first_imgBut before any of them embark on their journey into adulthood, the three are taking a much-needed vacation. After helping the team place fifth at the 2017 MAAC Championship on May 12, Brodek, Donat and Larson will be on the beaches of Cabo, Mexico, making up for the four years of never being able to travel during school breaks.  “Everyone was in the same boat as us (pun intended),” Larson said. “The coaches sent out an informational email to the incoming freshman girls and I just stuck with it and loved it.” Larson and Brodek both joined in the fall of their freshman year while Donat joined in the spring with a few friends who were all looking to try something new. “It was nice being able to struggle with your friends and have that bond as freshman,” Brodek said. “There were upperclassmen who knew what they were doing so we were able to mimic what they did and have an idea of what it was all supposed to look like eventually.” “When you play a sport, especially in rowing, there is a point where all of a sudden it clicks and everything just flows,” Donat said. “It’s really hard to describe but everything comes together and you literally move as one. You aren’t eight people rowing you are one boat. There is magic in that moment, and you feel like you are flying over the water.” Print Friendly Version As seniors, Brodek, Donat and Larson have acted as role models for their younger teammates and are there when someone needs an extra push. All three agreed there is no real sense of seniority because, as Donat puts it, in rowing you can be a leader whenever you want to. After Drake, Brodek, Donat and Larson who all graduated this May, are all returning to their respective home states or countries to begin a new chapter in their lives. Brodek is returning to Maine and will be working as a whitewater rafting tour guide for the summer. Then in mid-August, she will pack her bags and travel to Trinidad, Tobago for an internship doing guppy research. Her long-term plan is to go to graduate school for aquatic ecology. Donat will be returning to Germany to begin an internship with an educational company that does study abroad programs. As an international relations major, she also plans to eventually go to grad school. Larson is returning home to South Dakota and plans to take the year off to work in a hospital or physical therapy clinic. She also plans to attend grad school in hopes of working in health care. Since their freshmen year, the rowing team grew from 23 to 35 rowers and with it a lot of positive changes. Not only has their times gotten faster, which always cultivates good feelings, but there’s been an increase in team culture. “It used to be school and rowing were separate, but now we do a lot more as a team,” Brodek said. “Everyone is passionate about our team, rowing and being a family.” And it always helps to have someone who knows what they are doing when it comes to traveling for races. After four years of attending the same races and staying at the same hotels, Larson says it’s predictable for the older rowers and they are able to serve as resources for their teammates. Drake’s women’s rowing team began as a club team in 1988 and transitioned to a varsity sport in 1998. Head Coach Charlie DiSilvestro has been coaching the team since 1993 and helped the program transition through the change to a varsity sport and in 2009 when the Bulldogs joined their current conference, the east-coast based Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. “I’m considering being a graduate assistant at a University and I can see myself helping coach a team,” Brodek said. “I want to do grad school and possibly coach to try and keep it in my life a little longer.” As far as rowing goes, the seniors all agreed they want to give their bodies a break, but all hope to continue casually rowing in the future. “It’s a beautiful sport and it’s worth continuing,” Donat said. “But competitive rowing is hard, so I think I want to take a little break.”  “The people you row with you go through the good and the bad together and it’s a bond you aren’t going to have with anyone else,” Larson said. “You wake up at 5 a.m. together, you grind together, you win together and you lose together. I think that the friendships you make are something to really cherish.” Rowing is not your typical team sport, especially in the Midwest when most teams are in the East Coast. Drake rowing seniors Gabrielle Brodek (Hampden, Maine), Kerstin Donat (Vilsbiburg, Germany) and Sarah Larson (Watertown, S.D.) went from never holding an oar in their life to pros on the water. With an open recruiting process, Brodek, Donat and Larson decided to continue their athletic stature with a completely new sport. Brodek served as captain for the rowing team this past year and she says being a role model is the most important part of being a senior. She is able to take everyone’s questions, comments, concerns and criticism and give it back to them and work through fixing problems. “We try to show our younger teammates what hard work looks like and what a division I athlete at Drake looks like.” The rowing team is, as the seniors would describe it, the underdog when it comes to Drake teams. The team practices at 5:30 a.m. while other teams get the luxury of sleeping in a little later. They don’t benefit from having home games and fans that are always at their regattas. Instead they are each other’s cheerleaders. “We don’t have fans that come to every race so we have to support each other,” Brodek said. For their current and future teammates, the seniors all offered the same advice: stick it out and cherish the friendships. “No matter if you start in the fall and think it’s not the workout you were expecting or you aren’t connecting with others as quickly, you have to stick it out,” Brodek said. “You need to stick it out until you get the racing experience and the time in practice where there’s nothing else you would want to do.” One other huge difference, as Larson said, is there is no star player on the team. There are four or eight people in a boat who all have to mimic one another to advance. They are the ultimate team sport. “I think it makes us different, especially form other sports, how in sync you have to be with everyone,” Larson said. “In rowing, you have to be exactly in line with the person in front of you and do exactly what they are doing otherwise it doesn’t work. So it really is the ultimate team sport. We rely so much on each other that you can’t do it without other people.” “We are here to push people, make sure they are as in it as we are,” Donat said. “We help keep the team together and lead the direction.” The team still have girls join who have never rowed before, the seniors are able to relate to them since they were in the same position their first year. last_img read more