North Parks's Women's Rowing Team Does it Again!
Sitting in the gymnasium at North Park for graduation on May 8, 2004, I was not prepared for President David Horner's speech to the audience. In the midst of his reflections on the year, he began to talk about the women's crew team at school. Of course, my eyes wandered to connect with other members and former crew members in the crowd. I looked at them as if to say "Yes! We know about that, don't we?" Dr. Horner's speech caught my attention as I realized he was talking specifically about the four girls who were with Coach Tim Grant in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. My heart almost stopped‹I couldn't believe they were winning in Nationals. Dr. Horner stretched out his scarlet-robed arms and yelled, "GO VIKINGS." His sudden dramatic gesture startled us, but in that instant we all knew what it meant to be a part of North Park University. It's a small school community centered in support for one another. I was touched that Dr. Horner supported the team in the midst of the chaos of graduation.
During the rest of the ceremony, I thought of the girls in Philadelphia. How were they doing? What was it like for them? What could be going through their heads? I was so proud of them, regardless of the final score. I knew they deserved the chance to be at Nationals, and I knew they would pull their hardest while they were there. Later, Dr. Horton, a professor of Biology who is an avid supporter and cook for the crew team at regattas, pulled me aside at the reception.
"Have you heard about the girls?" he whispered.
"No, I haven't. What happened?" I replied.
"They won," he told me, an evident gleam in his eye. He looked as though he would burst with a proud excitement for these five girls.
I smiled at him, "I knew they could do it!"
For the rest of graduation, I reveled in the fact that North Park's crew team knocked our socks off again. From a non-existent team three years ago to National champions, I would say the women's crew team is a marvel to us all. We should all be proud of the women who have pushed and worked to create what it has become.
A few weeks after graduation, I had the opportunity to ask some of the womenErikka Treatch, Annika Safstrom, Cori Bowman, Becca Bowman, and Alli Koubsky‹who had participated in Nationals what it was like for them to have been there and compete so successfully. Rower Cori Bowman said:
It was great because no one had any expectations of us; we were the ultimate underdog. When Florida had to sprint hard to beat us in the first heat, we got some confidence. Then, when we qualified for the final, we were more confident. We discussed the heat and the semi-final before [participat-ing in] the final. We weren't going to let our stroke rates drop, and we were going to start taking them up [speeding up the frequency of the boat] and preparing to sprint just halfway [through the race]. With about 850 meters to go, Erikka was screaming, and we knew we were in first‹and we looked good. We were all completely focused and tuned in to what we were doing. It was a great feeling. I loved it!
Erikka Treatch, coxswain (the one in the boat responsible for giving direction and encouraging her rowers), was euphoric about the great victory. She put it this way:
God must have really wanted us to go to Philadelphia because in the course of a day, everything that seemed so trivial was completely worked out. On the way up to the [starting position], I kept saying [to the girls], "This is our gold medal row ladies. We didn't come this far to get anything less than first. God has given us this talent to use it for Him. It's our gold medal row..." [Later,] I told them that the crowd was cheering for them because we had taken first...I kept yelling "We're in first ladies! We're in first!" Before I knew it we were 10 strokes away from the finish...We crossed the finish line so strong and with great technique! I dropped my hand in the water after letting the girls know we got the gold and then I started crying... "We got the gold. Little ol' North Park won Nationals! ..." We walked around the rest of the day with our medals around our necks, and people would stop and ask us who we were. It was so exciting to say "I'm the North Park University Coxswain." God is good.
Truly, this was an amazing race for the girls to experience. With a final time of 7:38:05 minutes, they showed not only their competitors from Division I Schools‹(Purdue University (7:42:02), University of Vermont (7:42:07), University of Florida (7:45:17), The College of William and Mary (7:48:09), and University of Tennessee-Chattanooga (8:01:04)‹that they could win, but they also showed the North Park University community they were truly winners. Thanks so much to these wonderful women, and thanks to all the people who have supported such a wonderful team.