Throughout the year, several members of the Golden Bears' men's crew program will contribute a blog, giving everyone an inside look at the team as they prepare for the 2014 spring racing season. Our first blog comes from sophomore Erin Alexander.
As I look back on the fall season, I can’t help but notice the stark contrast between the beginning of my freshman and sophomore year. I had come to Berkeley all the way from South Florida, having been on a Lightweight Women’s team at Miami Beach Rowing Club before deciding to walk-on to the Heavyweight Men’s team here at Cal. The excitement, uncertainty, and nervous anticipation that accompanied the start of freshman year had dissipated - this year I returned to campus cool and confident, with a great group of friends and teammates at my side. I had somehow found my place within the network of Berkeley’s vast student body, rigorous academic classes, as well as the intensive time and dedication required of those a part of Cal Crew. This fall has been especially intensive in preparing for our two most important races of this half of the season – the Head of the Charles and the Princeton Chase. But prepping for those races wasn’t our only goal. We’re constantly looking towards the spring as we work through both tedious technical rows and our competitive Saturday morning racing pieces.
But in reality this fall wasn’t entirely different from the last. Just as I had to learn and adapt to college life as a freshman, I would now have to do the same as a new member of the varsity group. My transition into the varsity group has been anything but seamless. Of both rowers and coxswains, the coaches demand an ever-rising level of focus, precision, and commitment - to be one’s absolute best. Working to achieve, let alone maintain this incredibly high standard hasn’t been easy and I’m constantly questioning whether or not I’m performing at max potential. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not even close.
I say this with a great deal of optimism. I’ve made many mistakes this fall, some of which had greater consequence than others, and while it might be easier to allow them to push me further from my goals they’ve only driven me closer to them. The fall season has given me not just the opportunity to learn from my mistakes, but to learn how to prevent myself from making them again.
This year, the Princeton Chase was exactly one of those opportunities. The Heavyweight 8+ that I coxed took third place with just three seconds behind a close tie between Northeastern and Princeton. That margin makes me think of the few things I would have done differently in that race given another chance – taken the last turn as tightly as possible, or even made more aggressive moves – since I can’t, I can only learn from the experience and apply it towards preparing for the spring. As our team moves from fall racing and into the thick of winter training, we know we have the time and potential to get incredibly fast. But what will determine whether or not we’re fast enough to take down other crews is our ability to take a close look at our mistakes and missed opportunities, both individually and as a team. Since Princeton we’ve already begun to do this, creating a great momentum that with our continued focus and determination, will drive us to a successful spring season. Though we’ve got a long season ahead of us, the Golden Bears are hungry to put in the work and take on the competition from both the West and East coasts.