It’s late March and I’m lingering around the end of the boathouse used by the Pioneer High School rowing team, waiting for the boats to head down to the water for practice. Coach Rich Griffith has agreed to let me ride along in the motorized launch as he monitors the rowers’ workout. The following week I’ll take a ride with Huron High’s coach, Tom Kraft.
From behind me comes the warning from one of the coxswains: “Heads up!” Coxswains steer the boats on the water – and on land as well, because lifting and turning the long craft requires coordination.
A peek over my shoulder confirms that the command is directed at me – I’m standing near the middle of an upside-down 8-person rowing shell held aloft by eight women. My noggin is safe for a few seconds as they pause. To clear the boat completely, I’d need to hustle a good 25 feet in one direction or the other. But that seems like an overly dramatic and panicky move. Surely that’s not what boathouse culture demands? Instead, I simply kneel. The boat makes its way over me and down to the dock.
The learning curve is steep. A few minutes later: “Heads up!” The scene repeats itself.
I confirm with Pioneer senior Meaghan Kennedy, who’s standing nearby, that yes, maybe I should find another vantage point. Kennedy is coxswain for the men’s varsity eight-man boat and one of the team’s captains, along with twins Zach and Mackenzie Miller. Kennedy is waiting to guide her own boat down to the dock.