It’s so easy to forget. To forget the joy of wind at your feet or the force of an oar through water. When our pursuit of excellence becomes more urgent than our pursuit of happiness, it can be so easy to lose sight of the reasons we picked up our sport in the first place.
It’s so easy to forget, but thanks to my good friend Alex Kuschner, I never had to.
Alex’s rowing career at, and after, Radcliffe has proven to me that the greatest rewards for hard work can’t be recorded in an Excel spreadsheet or written in a resume.
This weekend Alex will be rowing in her first-ever Head of the Charles in the Alumnae Eight, and I can’t think of anyone who better exemplifies the unfailing dedication to a team and genuine love of the sport that the regatta stands for.
My strongest memories of Alex during my freshman year came not from my interactions with her but from the times I was walking in and out of the boathouse and caught her erging alone, headphones in ears, neither seeking nor receiving attention.
Her season was over. Her races were done. No one was forcing her. And yet here she was on the erg, doing what she thought was best for the team.
Sophomore year I got to know the girl inside the headphones a lot better. I learned about her thesis topic and her weather preferences. I learned that she had the biggest backsplash of anyone I knew, and that any time I rowed behind her I would finish practice soaking wet.
But more than that, I learned that Alex had a genuine, unflappable love of rowing and racing. She loved our boat, our practices, our races, our post-practice meals.
And when you’re rowing with someone so genuinely enamored with the sport, it’s hard not to join in the fun.
But like all good things, Alex’s three years on the Radcliffe Crew team had to come to an end.
“[Rowing] was without a doubt the best part of my college experience,” she says. “It’s had a huge impact on me. I didn’t realize the full impact that Radcliffe had on me until after I graduated.”
But what happens when it ends? For all of Alex’s qualities, she didn’t have the talent to row for the national team.
So Alex, a lifelong athlete who was on the track team for a year before taking up crew, took a little time off from competition until she could find her next project.
It came in the form of an email.
“It was really nice when I got the email from [assistant coach] Cory [Bosworth] telling me I was in the Alumnae Eight,” Alex says. “It gave me something to work for. I don’t want to let my boat down...It’s inspired me to join a rowing club as well.”
And so, partly in preparation for the Head of the Charles and partly because she missed the sport, Alex joined a local rowing club.
“It’s been really fun,” she says. “I feel like a rower again. After a few months of not rowing, my hands got all soft and lost their calluses...I have found a boat that’s a mixed eight that’s really fun to row with...I enjoy meeting new people, and there’s talking in the boat between pieces. It’s jokey, and we’re all there to have fun.”
Alex won’t be the most talented rower in the Alumnae Eight, which includes Olympic Gold Medalist Caryn Davies ‘04-’05 and former All-American Laura Huppert ’10, but she might just be the most enthusiastic.
“I’m really excited,” she says. “Christine [Baugh ’10] and Hup are in the boat and I don’t think I’ve ever rowed with them before. Two girls who were on the team my freshman year are rowing: Danielle Thiriot and Katie Golden. I didn’t know them because I didn’t row my freshman year. I finally get to meet them and row with them...I think it will be really neat for all the different classes to get together.”
Alex’s rowing career may not be as distinguished as those upperclassmen, at least not in terms of boat rankings and race results. But I would argue that her influence on the team has been no less profound. Anyone who’s ever rowed in a boat with her can’t help but take on her competitive zeal. Any time the going gets tough, it’s hard not to think of your teammate who really appreciates every moment she has on the water. I know that rowing with Alex has helped me put my own challenges in perspective. Every rower, every athlete has an inspiration, a teammate who motivates them to push harder and enjoy more. Alex is mine.
—Staff writer Christina C. McClintock can be reached at email@example.com.
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