Sweeping. Sculling. Scags. Gunnels. Feathering. Port. Starboard. Stern. Bow. The sport of rowing almost requires a comprehensive guide of its own just for all its maritime expressions.
However, the jargon comes as second nature to 20-year-old Ellen Leung, the varsity women’s captain of Texas Crew, which is the club rowing team on campus.
Leung, a biology junior, has been a part of crew since fall of her freshman year, when her twin sister, Allison, convinced her to try the sport. Two years later, Leung still rows, having learned enough to become a mentor to the new members who try their hand at crew every year.
For many, crew offers a rare opportunity to try something unique that includes less of the prestige and pageantry that may turn away new recruits.
“I think that, for crew, we give better opportunities for smaller people — for girls,” Leung said. “And, for guys, it’s the only rowing option.”
UT offers only one official women’s rowing team, and the rest of the hopefuls are destined for the club team, but that doesn’t mean there is no chance for success.
“In the past, like 10 years ago, Texas was one of the fastest teams — people know us for being the fastest,” Leung said. “But over the years since we lost our boathouse three years ago, things have changed. And so we kind of went through this ‘downhill’ thing, but I think we’re going uphill now that we have a new coach. He’s trying to build us back up.”
Leung is referring to Peter Rosberg, the new head coach of Texas Crew. Rosberg has extensive experience in the sport. He has rowed since his high school days in Detroit, through his time at Marietta College in Ohio and into a successful post-collegiate career. However, a shoulder injury gave him the opportunity to turn his lifelong sport into a full-time coaching position.
Rosberg’s previous coaching position was at Penn State University, where he encountered a rebuilding situation similar to the current state of Texas Crew. Through high school recruiting and a focus on excellence, Rosberg brought new life to Penn State Crew and has similar plans for Texas Crew.
The fall season for the sport is a bit more relaxed, with fewer races and more focus on training new recruits for the competitive spring season, when Texas Crew races against local teams, such as Texas Rowing Center and Austin Rowing Club, along with teams from all over the nation.
The fall is not all fun and games, however, as Texas Crew has two boats entered in the prestigious Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston, scheduled for October. Texas Crew will face off against hundreds of competitors in dozens of boats to make a name for itself.
With a large number of newcomers and only a few veterans on the squad, rebuilding is going to be a big part of the picture. Although, for Leung and the rest of her squad, it is just another challenge they are willing to overcome.