The prestigious Head of the Charles Regatta returns to the waters of the Charles River this weekend, and brings with it hordes of rowers of all ages and types.
Many will be collegiate athletes, and this will be their first taste of competitive rowing since the end of the season last spring.
But for some very special rowers, the summer provided its own unique opportunity to compete.
Junior Katie Golden and sophomore Lizzie Rose are two such special people.
Both row for the Radcliffe heavyweights, and both were in Cambridge for the summer—Rose because she lives here and Golden for an internship with Massachusetts General Hospital.
The two would train together in the boathouse, and when that got boring they would train outside together.
Eventually they began rowing a pair together on the Charles, and that got them thirsting for the sweet nectar of competition.
Enter Canadian Henley, a well-known regatta that ran during this summer from August 2 to 7 in St. Catherines, Ontario, and attracts teams from across North America.
“We started thinking about it in June,” Rose said. “On a whim one night we were like ‘Let’s do this.’ We registered online while we were sitting around in Katie’s room in DeWolfe.”
Part of the registration process required a team name. Naturally, the two turned to the movie Wayne’s World for inspiration.
“We had gotten into the movie during the season,” Golden said. “We were just like ‘What should we be?’ and we were like ‘Schwing!’”
Thus the Schwingg—extra ‘g’ for emphasis—Rowing Association was born.
Besides a team name, participants’ names also had to be registered. Golden, who is known for her impressive trapezius muscles, went with Traps, while Rose, who considered concentrating in VES, selected Artiste.
So Traps Golden and Artiste Rose packed up their gear, arranged for a trailer to transport their boat, and set out to conquer our great neighbor to the north.
Then the trouble began.
“Our names wouldn’t have been a problem, but they ID you when you go to the docks,” Rose said.
Lacking ID that recognized them as Traps and Artiste, the two were then informed that they had never properly registered with USRowing.
“We spent three hours in the regatta chair’s office, alternating being in tears in a corner and pleading with them to let us row,” Rose said.
“We sort of made friends with USRowing because we talked to them every five minutes,” she added.
Hundreds of dollars later, the Schwingg RA was officially recognized and ready to go.
Well, almost ready to go.
“Every time we fixed a problem that kept us from racing another one came up,” Golden said.
The man driving the trailer got lost while out of cell phone service areas, so the pair didn’t know where their shell was.
They had no coach, and thus no one to attend the coaches’ meeting, and thus no one to register their team colors, which proved a problem when a race official questioned them on their colors.
Despite the adversity, the team known as Schwingg was grabbing plenty of attention.
In addition to the heat lineups, the name was featured along with the rest of the clubs competing on the Regatta t-shirt.
“People would look at back and say ‘Who are they?’” Rose said. “‘Maybe they’re Scandinavian.’”
Rose ran into some friends from her high school team, and when she revealed what club she was rowing for, her fame grew even greater.
“All these 15-year-old girls were like ‘You’re awesome!’” Rose said.
“It was all worth it when the official began to laugh on the starting line when he was poling the crews, which is a very tense moment, and came across Schwingg RA,” Golden added.
Entered in the Senior Women B Pair event, the pair began competition taking third in its opening heat, and qualified for the semifinals.
“We plan on taking out the competition with actual collisions rather than in the traditional racing fashion of beating a crew across the finish line,” Golden said before the trip.
Apparently she was serious.
After fighting for the first spot for the first 250 meters, a strong crosswind kicked up that combined with a nasty tail-current to knock Schwingg out of its lane and into the crew to its right.
Forced to stop and restart, the pair came in fourth, and missed out on a trip to the finals.
Despite the setback, Traps and Artiste made another trip, into the hearts of the competitors and spectators at the regatta.
—Staff writer J. Patrick Coyne can be reached at email@example.com.