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Once a Rower, Now a Coxswain, Always an Athlete


Photo by Stefano Balbusso

Varsity coxswain Sarah Dresser rowed bow at San Diego Crew Classic last year. She officially became a coxswain the following fall season.


By Sarah Dresser

Varsity Coxswain

To my teammates:

Rowing is an all-around, full body workout that can easily get people in the best shape of their lives. Quitting rowing, on the other hand, is like a palpable recession of fitness — something I felt occurring as it was happening. It didn’t have to be this way, but without the pressure of competition, priorities were rearranged and staying in shape became a chore rather than a requirement.

Before I realized it, my team had left me in the dust as I was huffing and puffing after running barely a quarter of a mile. I felt like a disappointment. Although a coxswain does not necessarily have to be leading the pack on the run or pulling the same erg times as their rowers, being a leader means showing the same dedication as the rest of the team. This was a standard to which I was not living.

Making the decision to get back in shape was easy; actually working out was a painful process both physically and mentally. I had to recondition my body and mind to push through the pain that was telling me to stop everything and sit down, to give up. Luckily, I had a few influences that really pushed me to keep going.

I have coaches who will not let up on my fitness goals. Megan Smith, the women’s novice coach, dragged me along on jogs for weeks before I could finally keep up with her. She ignored my complaints and proved to me that no excuse I could come up with would deter her from taking me on a run. And I did not make her job easy. Now, thanks to her help, I am steadily improving my mile times and keeping up with most (but not all) of the team on runs.

I also have many teammates to thank for my motivation. Seeing them push to improve their fitness keeps me returning to second workouts and fighting the burn at head coach Ian Simpson’s CORE practices. My two roommate-teammates Rikki Oden and Samantha McFeely cheer me on in my progress as I collapse in the doorway of our apartment, and Ariana Gastelum, another varsity rower, seals my obligation to come to CORE with a simple text message, “Are you coming?” Many others, including Ranita Ram, Penelope Gallardo and Sydney Fulgham demonstrate their strength and resilience every day, pushing me to continue in my path. These women use positivity and encouraging messages to keep me motivated in staying in shape as I watch them continue their hard work and commitment. Striving for improvement is a promise to myself to match the dedication of these women whom I look up to. It is their determination that fuels the same in me.

My teammates continuously show their dedication to the team on and off the water and in and out of practice, and that has lead me by example to uphold a higher standard. Without their support, I cannot say my journey would have gone very far, but now I am well on my way to completing my fitness goals and becoming a stronger member of the team. This experience has not only taught me the importance of lifelong fitness, but given me an entirely new outlook on taking the actions of my life into my own hands. For all of this, I want to thank my team, my extended family.


Photo by Reid Atkins

The varsity eight discuss their individual and team goals moments before every race, providing encouragement and last-minute advice.