Posted February 6, 2012 Atlanta, GA
On Saturday, Feb. 11, the crowd on the rowing machines at the Campus Recreation Center may look a little more serious than usual as the Georgia Tech Crew Team hosts its annual Atlanta Erg Sprints indoor rowing competition. Each year prior to the spring season, rowers convene at the CRC from around the Southeast to race against the clock at Tech’s nationally recognized athletic facility.
“It’s a good chance to see where you’re at for the season,” said Corey Drozdowski, former president of GT Crew and a mechanical engineering major. The event is run by GT Crew alumni, and rowers from Emory, Vanderbilt, Berry and other Southeast schools will travel to Atlanta to participate.
In the land-locked city of Atlanta, it may seem far-fetched that the Institute could have water sports teams. Even more surprising may be that GT Crew has thrived since 1985.
In 2011, the men’s novice and varsity teams placed first in various races at the Southern Intercollegiate Rowing Association (SIRA) championship, along with the women’s varsity team. The men also had teams place first at the 2011 Dad Vail, the equivalent of a club rowing national championship, with women’s teams placing second. This spring, about 50 students will spend several hours on the water each week, taking to the CRC to continue honing skills in the off-season.
“Practicing in the dark in the winter is hard,” said Nick Russell, GT Crew public relations and recruiting officer and an aerospace engineering major. “If a coach can’t see you to correct errors on the water, it’s not worth being there — reinforcing bad habits on the water makes things hard to fix.”
The team employs five coaches through membership dues, with equipment largely funded by the Student Government Association. Drozdowski is quick to acknowledge support the team has received over the years, including crew alumni, current advisor Rich Steele and former advisor Rosalind Myers. In fact, the team even has a boat named in Myers’ honor.
Outside of campus, GT Crew partnered with Panama City Beach last year to encourage tourism in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. PCB welcomes the team for spring break each year for a week of three-a-days training, marking the beginning of its requirement to remain sober until after the last race of the season.
“They like us coming because we’re not just going down there to party,” Drozdowski said. However, the team doesn’t lack in having its own fun. Members are prone to shave abnormal facial hair patterns and rack up winnings in shirt bets, a tradition among crew clubs where the winning team receives a shirt from each losing team at national competitions.
“We have a lot of shirts,” said Alyssa McKay, a GT Crew public relations officer and architecture major. The hope is to grow that collection each year, as well as to earn medals at Dad Vails and bring more pride and spirit to the team.
“Our goals as a team are to bring home as many medals as possible from major regattas, while also helping improve our community by being respectful, productive people,” Russell said. “Coach Rob [Canavan] actively encourages us to have acts of community service that can range from helping an old lady cross the street to serving in a soup kitchen.”