Women's Rowing Journal - Caitlin Doolin
Oct. 20, 2005
I knew within the first week of practice that I had fallen into place with the right team. I had only known my teammates for a few short practices but the atmosphere at practice was different from anything I had ever been apart of. I didn't know why, but this team was special. And it wasn't until my first collegiate race that it became apparent to me why the Bucknell rowing team was so unique. That first race is a race that I will always remember as the "successful failure".
It was a beautiful morning as we launched four eights alongside Lehigh and Fordham. I was the stroke seat of my boat and was anxious and excited as we went through our warm-up and rowed to the starting line of the first race of the season, and my first college race ever! "Attention, Row!" Before I knew it we had taken our first stroke and had 6,000 meters to go. A start five, high 20 and a lengthen 10 to settle into our race. We felt confident and were feeling strong until I felt that awful jolt in my seat and was at a dead stop at the top of the slide. One of the wheels had fallen off.
I had to immediately drop out while my seven other teammates pulled without me for about 2,500 meters. I struggled as fast as I could to take the seat off the slide, screw the wheel back on and put it back on the track before I could rejoin my teammates. By the time we were rowing by eights again we were down by about four lengths and for the next 3,500 meters, we pushed. Every stroke was harder than the last, every stroke was angrier than the last to make up for lost time. By the end of the race we had closed the gap significantly and at one point in the race we were almost bow to stern with the second-to-last-place boat in our heat. We crossed the finish line with a final power 10 and finally, the race was over. I knew we had pulled our hardest and done the best we possibly could considering what had happened, but I dreaded turning around and facing my teammates disappointed faces and what ifs. I felt as though I had ruined their first and only home race of the fall. I had horribly underestimated the character of my boatmates. They had more supportive things to say than if we had actually won the race. Everyone was so excited at all of our effort to hang in there when we were down and everyone knew no one had given up on one stroke. This was when I realized why this team was one of a kind. The support, heart and character of my teammates are unmatchable. We had pulled harder and came together when we were down, and that had made it one of the most satisfying races of my career.
There is a saying that says, "You'll never know if you never rowed" and it is entirely true. To every person I mention that I am on the rowing team I get the same stare of absolute confusion as to why. Why do we wake up at absurd hours to go through voluntary pain only to look forward to doing it again later that day? It's absurd. No one can understand the passion, love and desire that runs through this sport until they have woken up before sunrise alongside a group of girls that have the same fire in their eyes. Bucknell women's rowing is special because this team beats with one heart.
-Caitlin Doolin `09