Your lungs are burning, your arms are aching yet you push on. 300m to finish. Faint nausea consumes you, gradually growing with each rapid stroke. 200m to finish. Your eyes begin to sting as Thames water flicks onto you eyelids and blisters begin to form on your hands. 100M to finish. You grit your teeth and pour your last drop of energy into winning. 10m to finish. You focus, everything becoming clearer. You have won. You hunch over your oar, gasping for breath, but nothing else matters, You won.
This year, a brand new sport was added to the choices for middle school students in the spring: rowing/crew. Crew is a major sport in high school and is one of if not the only activity that students are able do for each of the three sporting seasons.
However, up until this year, it was not available for middle school students. It was introduced as a development course but, as the season went on, crew members slowly gained confidence and finished off strong with an internal regatta (race) on the river Thames.
Mr. Tim Male, who represented the United Kingdom in two Olympics, was the main manager of the ASP but the program was not only run by him. Mr. Stuart Heap and Ms. Julie Lewis (who coach in the high school) were also key contributors in the debutante spring sport and, without the star power of these coaches, success would have been all but impossible.
Sixteen eighth-graders participated in the program, which was co-ed. It took place on Tuesdays and Thursdays with Tuesdays being dedicated to fitness work in the blue gym on rowing machines also known as Ergos. Thursdays were spent on the River Thames at the University of London Boathouse in Chiswick. While the season started slowly due to bad weather and a steep learning curve, the team gradually picked up steam, and by the end of the season many students were eager for more. “Obviously it was hard at the beginning and, lets face it, it’s a hard sport in general,” eighth-grader Alex Roche said. “But our strength, competence and team work eventually took pole position over our apprehensions. Overall it was a great season.” As mentioned earlier, the season finale was a internal regatta and for many if not all the participants, it was their first time racing in a proper setting. There were 4 different boats, three quads or four person Crew boats and one Octo. It was in a semi final format and the winner of each semi would then race each other in the final.
The introduction of Crew to the middle school athletics program resulted in a new sport for multiple students and also provided middle school students the opportunity of learning Crew before it becomes a mainstay once they get to high school.