Northwestern club rowing team bonds, succeeds at international regatta


(Source: NU Crew)

Northwestern women’s rowing team competes in the 5,000-meter race at the Zhengzhou International University Rowing Regatta in April. The team took fourth place.

Ella Brockway, Assistant Sports Editor

Weinberg sophomore Min Kim was one of 20 members of Northwestern’s club rowing team who traveled to Zhengzhou, China, last month to participate in the Zhengzhou International University Rowing Regatta.

Kim, who also serves as the communications chair for NU Crew, said one of his most memorable moments of the trip didn’t even occur on the water. Instead, it happened at a dinner event, where teams from four different countries in attendance gathered and socialized.

A rower from one of the Chinese teams approached him and asked him if he liked basketball. It was a conversation not about rowing, not even barred by the language barriers that separated the two students.

“The fact that rowing was what brought us there, but that wasn’t what made us connect,” Kim said. “That was really cool.”

The Northwestern team was one of 10 clubs from across the world that participated in the regatta, held from April 20 to April 23 on Longzi Lake in Zhengzhou. Rowers from the Amsterdam Student Rowing Club Nereus and the Wolfson College Boat Club at the University of Cambridge came for the event, and seven universities across China were also represented.

The regatta consisted of both a 300-meter sprint race and a longer, 5,000-meter distance race. The club spent the majority of the race day on April 21 on the water, NU Crew president Katie Cavanaugh said.

The longer, 5,000-meter race was different than those at the American regattas in which the club usually participates. Conducted around a circular course, the race was organized in heats so that teams were not racing next to each other, but instead competing for time.

“With rowing, everyone rows basically one side,” said Cavanaugh, a Weinberg senior. “So since it was a circle, one half of the boat had to be pulling harder than the other half in order to keep the boat going around the circle.”

While the course and the lack of their own boats and equipment was difficult, Northwestern’s rowers embraced the challenge. The women’s team, the only non-Chinese women’s crew team, finished in second place in the 300-meter race and in fourth place in the 5,000-meter race.

Aside from rowing, the Northwestern team attended dinners with rowers from the other universities, complete with singing, dancing and games. The students explored Zhengzhou on their final day in China, visiting the city’s central shopping district and touring a museum that documented the city’s history.

Cavanaugh said the regatta’s host, the Fenghe Sports club, expressed interest in having NU Crew return to China in the future.

The trip helped the NU Crew members understand how rowing as a sport intersects with a country’s culture in different parts of the world, from centuries-old clubs like A.S.R. Nereus to developing programs like those of the Chinese universities, Cavanaugh said. She said this has helped put Northwestern’s own program into perspective.

“Seeing that, in some places, (rowing) is a very up and coming sport, like in China, but then like some of our competitors, like the other international teams … it is super ingrained into their country culture,” Cavanaugh said. “I feel like going somewhere else actually helped us understand where we are.”

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