At 5 a.m. all around the Bates College campus on most mornings this time of year, lights go on in dorm rooms. While many of their classmates are asleep, some rolling in just a short time ago, members of a team of dedicated college athletes on the rowing team drag themselves out of bed to begin their morning workout.

“We like the pain, push each other, and do it for that feeling of flying we get when it’s all working together. It’s just magic.” senior bowman Sarah Murphy said.

They climb into minivans and caravan about 20 minutes away to the team boathouse along a bank of the Androscoggin River in Greene where their training facility is located. Quiet and serene, the wide river with long stretches of open water offers an ideal place to row their long, sleek boats called shells that glide through the water at an amazing clip.

The river can be rough and cold, but to athletes arriving on some mornings with the sun just peeking over the horizon, mist floating along the glass-like surface and wildlife abounding, it can inspire awe.

But after prepping their shells, carrying them overhead to the water and carefully stepping in and strapping up, the focus is all about technique and teamwork.

“We rely on each other and are bound together.” senior Gabriella Bilotta said. As coxswain, Bilotta is tasked with verbally controlling the boat’s steering, speed, timing and fluidity. Her commands, cadence and inflection keeps her team motivated and working seamlessly.

Sarah Murphy is also a senior and she and Bilotta are at opposite ends of their boat. As bowman, Murphy is tasked with the most technical aspect of the boat in controlling its stability and direction. The two seniors stick together not only in the boat, but around campus.

“We rely on each other to train and stay focused. It is the hardest during the winter when it is dry-land training only. The coaches are not allowed to have contact with us then, so it is up to us to push each other to increase our strength and stamina. We have also realized what is important to us and try to make good choices. We can go to parties, socialize and laugh a lot, but knowing our teammates are counting on us the next day, we have to make good choices.” Murphy said after a recent practice.

All the hard work seems to have paid off, according to coach Peter Steenstra.

“We had a great weekend at the New England Championships,” Steenstra said. “Out of seven crews, we came home with four gold medals and a silver. A ‘best-ever’ day for the Bates Rowing program.”

With their success this past weekend in Worcester, Massachusetts, the team is looking forward to a strong finish to the year, and college career for the seniors, at the upcoming ECAC and National Championship races later this month. For more information on the Bates Rowing Teams, visit batesrowing.blogspot.com.


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