Jenn Gatz: Supporting the Team – Emily’s Qualification Quest

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When I opened my inbox on January 15th to Becky’s email regarding the new spin on Winter Camp to support Emily Morley for her OTW training week and quest representing the Bahamas in the W1x at the 2016 Latin Americas Qualification Regatta for Rio, my immediate reaction was a huge grin and a verbal “I’m in.”

I can’t help thinking of a couple of quotes by Henry Ford, “Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success.” and “If everyone is moving forward together, success takes care of itself.” Back in the winter of 1990, I was walking out of my work study stint, lifeguarding at the Hill Center pool, when I saw a group of women athletes down on hands and toes doing pushups in the lobby in a big oval. Some had blue jackets on that read “Ithaca Crew” and I walked over to the blond woman clearly in charge and asked, “What’s this?” That woman happened to be Anita Krook-Brenner and that simple question sparked a 4 year collegiate rowing career that I view as some of the best years of my life. I happened to be dressed in workout clothes so I joined them on the floor that day and then out to the back steps behind the Hill Center for sprints up the steps 2 by 2 and recovery running down the small hill. I loved it and we weren’t anywhere near the water yet! The friendships that began with my teammates that day have lasted throughout the 23 years since I graduated in 1993. We may be separated by many years, we may not be physically training all together in the same location, and we may not have met but there is a special bond that forms between members of Ithaca Crew past and present. IC Crew is family and I can’t think of anything better than pulling for Emily Morley in her quest!

Opportunities to row outside of college were nonexistent for me in the early 1990’s and I felt the void keenly. After graduation, my inclination towards relentless pursuit of athletic goals as part of a team led me to a very successful 20 year triathlon career, multiple marathons with the work ethic I learned from rowing taking me to Boston a couple of times, ultra-running in the trails, mountain bike, cyclocross and adventure racing. In 2014, a small rowing club began one mile down from my house here on the eastern end of Long Island, NY. I stopped in and inquired about learning how to scull. I spent that summer on the water nearly every day and the void I filled with all other types of endurance sport closed. I was back to rowing! My husband whom I met through triathlon in 1995, asked me at the end of that first summer in 2014, “Is this the new obsession?”, “Oh no,” I replied, “this was the very first obsession, I only turned to triathlon because I couldn’t row!”

There is a peace and a calm that settles over me when I settle into a good rhythm on the water or on the erg, especially when my masters’ teammates are either with me in a double or around me. I know you know that feeling, the feeling of togetherness, being in sync, the power of the boat moving underneath you, or the meters flying by while you pull your heart, lungs and legs out alongside your teammate next to you on the erg or in the tanks. In the fall of 2014, I went to spectate and recon the Head of the Charles, and was thrilled to see the IC Women’s Alumni 8 row to a great finish! Seeking out the trailer, I ran into Dan Robinson and here is a perfect example of the family nature of this awesome team, when I walked up to Dan, he said, “Jen Schatz! How are ya?” and he hadn’t seen me in 21 years! The same can be said when I contacted Ward just before Thanksgiving this year, I was driving up to Ithaca to meet John from Fluidesign at Cascadilla boat club to pick up my new single and Ward was gracious enough to meet me at the IC boathouse so I could have a tour. It was the first time I had seen it since the renovation and it’s beautiful! Then again, the old cement two-bay building will always hold a special place in my heart. I was instantly transported back to the early 90’s, where as a novice we were tethered to the dock in an 8, squat jumps for warm up on the back lawn, seat racing my way into the WV8 in 4’s, winter erging and lifting of weights that were homemade with cement filled paint cans and the pull up bar wall that was close to a door that opened to the outside across from the Cornell boathouse. I could picture that space and those times vividly and I think I can still feel the burn of cranking out as many pull ups as possible or lying on the wood bench for bar rows timed for a minute, or getting off the erg and staggering out the door of the open bay to collect myself before we got back on the ergs again for the next set. Walking upstairs to look out over the water brought back many fond memories of racing and training on the inlet and up and down the east coast that I will never forget. This is a special time in your life and you are all with a special group of people, enjoy every minute, even an “erg minute” because I can tell you that the memories and the feelings will last you a lifetime.

The bond that extends throughout the Ithaca Rowing community is a lasting and special bond. Reading Becky’s email to rally training support for Emily is no exception to the strength of that bond between current rowers and alumni rowers and I was excited to participate. Sitting on the erg in my basement this week, I felt like I was surrounded by my IC Crew teammates once again and I was proud to lend my strength and my meters to Emily’s quest! As I mentioned to Becky in an email after the last workout yesterday that was 3 sets of 2 x 750 meters, it was an awesome week of training and I was thrilled to contribute, participate and keep up with the IC Varsity women rowers, surprising myself with some improved erg splits and building some confidence going forward in 2016 that will include lots of masters racing in the single, representing US Coastal Rowing for the second year in a row, and hopefully racing with the IC Women’s alumni crew if the opportunity presents! More importantly, as Vince Lombardi said, “It is the individual commitment to a team effort that is what makes a team work.” Thank you Becky and Ithaca Rowing for the opportunity to individually commit myself to the team effort in support of IC rower Emily Morley going for Rio! Go Emily! Go Bombers!!!

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