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Early mornings equal high rewards for Augie rowers

November  04, 2010

View more photos and watch a video about Augustana's crew team

Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. The familiar sound of her alarm clock wakes Liz Tressel every morning, but this morning, at 4:45 a.m., it doesn't bother her. Waking up early has become second nature to Tressel, a sophomore at Augustana. She rises and quickly is on her way to the Mississippi River, where five days a week in the spring and fall she and her teammates on Augustana's club crew team will be on the water before sunrise.

With the Mississippi just minutes from campus, Augustana fields rowing teams for men and women, with more than 40 students participating each year.

"It is the ultimate Viking sport," Tressel said, "and anyone can try it. I met my best friends out here, and my greatest memories are from early mornings and team-bonding moments."

Joining the crew team is simple. Most of its members curiously approached the team's table at an activity fair on campus and then fell in love with the sport once they hit the water. Most have no previous rowing experience.

"Rowing was new to me freshman year, but I had been interested in it before Augie," said junior Audrey Lukey. "When I went to learn to row, it was a lot of fun. It was really challenging at first, but I kept going and waking up for it. You get to be right on the water and watch the sunrise as you row. Every day I row, the day turns out better."

Augustana students have been rowing on the Mississippi since 1998, when a first-year student founded the school's club team. In the 12 years since, the group has more than doubled in size and had success on the national level. Last spring, seniors Sam Blazey and Carl Mohler competed in the U.S. Rowing Collegiate Nationals in Princeton, N.J., together placing first in lightweight doubles. Blazey added a second-place finish in the men's lightweight singles event. This fall, the Vikings competed in five regattas, traveling to Des Moines, Iowa, Iowa City, Rockford, Ill., Skokie, Ill., and hosting an event in Moline. They held their own against teams from much larger institutions.

"We are a small school, but with the Mississippi so close we've been able to attract a lot of rowers who have had success," said coach Dave Weaver. "When you look at a big school like Iowa State, they are big and public and have only 50 members on their team, and it takes them 45 minutes either way to get to practice on water."

Off the water, en route back to campus, the morning workout has energized Tressel, Lukey and the others. "When we drive, there is usually not too much talking on the way there," sophomore Hannah Maloney says, "but on the way back, everyone is awake and singing."

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By Robert Connelly '12