This year, NSU announced the indefinite suspension of their women’s rowing team. This announcement came after nationwide cuts to college sports as many college athletics departments have been hit hard by the pandemic. While the rowing team has been suspended, the team spirit continues on and the girls on the team have fond memories of their time spent rowing.
Madison Mello, a junior marine biology major, recalls when she first began rowing. “I started rowing my freshman year of high school. After swimming for about six years, I got really bored and had known a family friend that rowed previously. One day, I just decided to sign up and never stopped,” said Mello.
Alex Herlihy, a junior environmental science major, recalls a similar induction into the sport. “I started rowing in high school. Our assistant principal decided to start a rowing club since we had a pretty big lake nearby, and so he said ‘Okay, we can do this.’ Around the same time, I had [wanted] to stop doing soccer, so it ended up working out. I did it in high school and got super into it. I eventually went to a rowing camp at the naval academy. I joined NSU’s team as a walk on since my club was super small and I couldn’t get recruited,” said Herlihy.
Both Mello and Herlihy were on the rowing team before it was suspended. While they are both saddened at the news of the suspension, they have lifelong memories and feel that rowing at NSU has greatly enhanced their college experience.
“I’ve met some of my best friends through rowing. While I was rowing, I was able to get all my school problems out of my head and just focus on that. It really helped me focus, too. I know I’m a person who, if not busy, will not do well in school. It was the perfect thing for me and just really helped me focus,” explained Herlihy.
Devin Fay, the coach for the women’s rowing team, reminisces on his time spent coaching the rowing team and knows that, while this is a disappointment to the team, it will help them grow in their personal and professional careers.
“The students were absolutely spectacular. The women on the team worked so hard. Rowing at NSU was amazing. Watching the sunrise come up over the intercoastal waterway was amazing. I think that’s probably going to be what I’m going to miss the most, besides being surrounded by and helping a group of people who just want to be really good at something. I loved the constant benefit of being in an environment like that,” said Fay.
NSU’s rowing team has won many awards throughout the years and some team members have gone on to receive additional awards and scholarships for their rowing escapades.
In 2012, the NSU Sharks rowing team dominated at the Sunshine State Conference rowing competition. The Sharks varsity eight won the championships at SSC by more than 10 seconds, a clear-cut and impressive win. That same year, they received the silver medal at the Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta, a prestigious competition.
In 2017, four members of the NSU Sharks rowing team were given scholar-athlete awards by the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association (CRCA). This award is only granted to students who have a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher while being in their third or fourth year of school and have competed in at least 75% of the team’s events.
To Fay, rowing is more than just a sport. It is an essential tool to teach social and perception skills.
“The purpose of rowing at the collegiate level is to teach people on a more basic level than just a classroom how to interact with teammates and people who are moving towards a goal. In the end, you’re personally going to get a lot out of it. Not just because you want the team to do well, but because you can see the individual growth in each team member,” said Fay.
Mello also noted that being on the rowing team at NSU was an essential part of what made college so great for her.
“I think it definitely enhanced my experience at NSU. I feel, when I came to Florida, I had nobody and being pushed straight into a family like that was so comforting. It made me feel a lot better. Even now, when the team is no longer, I still feel like I have that family. I talk to the girls every single day. It made me appreciate the college experience a little bit more; having to balance academics, studying, and my social life and all that. It just made it better,” said Mello.
Fay believes that rowing exemplifies a co-curricular model that many schools use to teach personal and professional skills.
“I think rowing is the best sport you can do in college. It’s a very simple sport, but the skills you’re developing mentally are complex. It helps you realize your goals and it teaches you that if you want to get something, you have to invest in a certain way. Learning what ways you need to invest yourself is something you need in rowing to excel at it, so that’s why I think rowing belongs in a college environment,” he said.
While the team is only indefinitely suspended, there is already a change.org petition with more than 1,500 signatures asking NSU to reinstate the rowing team.
“I know that the alumni are working really hard to prove that rowing belongs at NSU. Everybody is struggling in college athletics right now, so it’s no surprise, but I think there is a way to continue rowing at NSU,” said Fay.