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Rowing Spotlight

Pause at the Release is our periodic feature in which we highlight the perspective of one of our student-athletes. In these articles, the athletes share their personal experiences as part of the Golden Hurricane team with our wonderful supporters and community members. Here, you'll find the backstage story on TU Women's Rowing, told through the eyes of the athletes themselves. Check back often to see updates from more of your favorite rowers and coxswains.

Pause at the Release: Row True, Row Blue

This year's fundraising event, Row True, Row Blue, was a great success! We began early Tuesday morning by loading four ergs into the back of the truck and heading over to Kendall-Whittier Elementary. Since half of the proceeds benefit True Blue Neighbors, it was such a nice opportunity to be in the school and see the kids that would directly benefit from the funds. When students began to arrive at school, their reactions were a mix of excitement and confusion. After I explained what the strange machines were and that the rowers were erging for 60 minutes nonstop, the confusion was replaced with awe. The younger kids stopped and waved at the rowers as they walked by with their classes, mesmerized by the lull of the wheel and the repetition of the strokes. We really enjoyed our time at Kendall-Whittier, and the fun was just beginning!

Later that evening, over the course of five hours, the remaining 55 rowers (and coxswains!) completed their 60-minute erg in the Reynold's Center while their fellow student-athletes defeated UConn on the court 66-58. The fans were intrigued, just as the students were earlier that morning, and many stopped to chat and ask questions. Some even asked if they could try it out, and they hopped on the erg to give it a go. After getting off, there was a consensus amongst those brave enough to try: it's not as easy as it looks!

In all, our team (coaches included!) rowed more than 545,000 meters (or about 340 miles) Tuesday. In cash donations alone from Tuesday evening, our loyal Golden Hurricane fans generously donated approximately $1,400. When I think of the monetary amount that we've generated from this event, I envision the awe and excitement on the faces of the students at Kendall-Whittier. It fills me with joy to know that those same faces will benefit from the proceeds raised, and this makes me exuberantly proud to be a Golden Hurricane.

- Arielle Tillou, TU Alumni and Graduate Assistant Coach

"I didn't even know they had a rowing team," we overheard a fan sitting behind us at the Tulsa Basketball game against UConn comment to his neighbor. I can't blame him. Rowing is definitely not the most popular sport in the Midwest, let alone Oklahoma. "Is there even water there?" and "you must have really strong arms" are conversation starters that many Tulsa rowers are all too accustomed to hearing. Prevailing unfamiliarity with our sport is only one reason the True Blue Neighbors Fundraiser is so important. Of course, we all strive to raise as much money as we can for the cause and as a team realize the importance of community service and involvement. The dedication of my teammates to the Tulsa community probably makes me more proud than anything to be a member of Tulsa women's rowing team, but the benefits of the True Blue Fundraiser are twofold in that the team gets exposure and gains recognition for our public display of what we do all year: work hard. It's not always easy attracting student fans to regattas due to the commute, even to our home course in Catoosa. What makes it even more challenging is the scarcity of rowing teams in this part of the country that leads people to assume silly things like that rowing is entirely an arm workout (tell that to my quads and hamstrings).

Sitting on a rowing machine for an hour straight, sweating red-faced and breathing heavy in front of hundreds of people is not your average Tuesday night. Not even ours. It is, however, one of the most rewarding feelings to know your hard work is helping others, while broadening popular understanding of the sport you put your life into at the same time. Personally, I did not row my hour ergometer piece at the basketball game on the night of the 13th. Instead, I had the pleasure of carrying my erg into the gymnasium of Kendall Whittier Elementary School, showing the students a part of what rowing is about. I couldn't count the enormous number of smiles I got from kids who probably thought I looked kind of crazy moving back and forth on a weird machine on their stage as they sang the national anthem in unison at their morning assembly. All that I could hope looking back at them was that they might be inspired by what my teammate Skye and I were doing the way I was inspired in the ninth grade by upperclassmen strolling into my high school after their morning rowing practices. Even if we only motivated one student to row or work hard or take part in community service or whatever, our effort was worth it.

The fan sitting behind me at the basketball game learned something about us and could appreciate our work, later questioning if he himself could do the workout that is so familiar to our team. These are just bonuses to our team's unique fundraiser, but to us they make all the difference. Rowing is exactly what it looks like (read: really hard) and at times you have to find little things to keep you pushing through that rough workout, those brutal sessions. This time, True Blue was that thing and I'm immensely proud of my team for their commitment to the community.

- Leah Suleski, Junior

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Contact Natasha Ostopovich at natasha-ostopovich@utulsa.edu