Rower Audrey Gordon traveled to Boston for world indoor championships
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Rowing elicits thoughts of warm days on the water, but in the Milwaukee winter, that picturesque scene is replaced with a flickering fluorescent light, stale, sweaty air and the faint hum of an ergometer, or rowing machine, in the basement of Humphrey Hall.
Audrey Gordon, a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences, is part of a collection of questionably sane men and women known as Marquette Crew, who shuffle into that basement to stay in shape for the upcoming spring rowing season.
In years past, Marquette’s Crew team has done their 2k races’s in a suffering silence. They’ve only rowed against each other. But Gordon is breaking the mold. This past weekend, she became the first Marquette rower to participate in the World Indoor Rowing Championships, CRASH-B. Sprints.
The 2k is the main element of winter training — a full-out, 2,000-meter sprint. Most rowers hate it, but Gordon embraces the challenge.
“Yes, I like the indoor part of rowing,” she said. “But, it’s a delayed feeling of gratification. It’s the type of thing where you feel so much better and improve so much. Even though it sucks, you just do it and you get better.”
Located in Boston, the CRASH-Bs have increased in size each year. She battled 186 female rowers vying for the top spot.
“I rowed my first 2K and all my friends said that was really fast,” she said. “I knew there was CRASH-Bs. I didn’t know how intense it was, but I knew I would have a shot at placing in the upper half,” she said.
Her personal best going into the weekend was 7:30, and for reference, there are upperclassmen on the men’s team who can’t keep up with her. If you placed her time in last year’s championships, she would’ve been safely in the top third.
Her goal was to improve her time for the CRASH-Bs, and on Sunday morning, with the pressure of facing women from Ukraine, New Zealand and West Point Academy, she produced a personal best seven-minute and 24-second 2K that placed her 42nd overall out of 186.
She said pressure was never a factor, and her competition, no matter how impressive their resumes, didn’t even register a blip on her radar.
“I don’t really care about the people beside me,” Gordon said. “As long as they get what they want, that’s good. I’m using this an as opportunity to prove me to myself. I’m putting a number out there for Marquette.”
Her decision to try rowing and take on the challenge of Boston was her own, but rowing is a team sport. Everyone has to be in the same motion or the boat won’t move. She stressed the importance of her teammates, the novice women, a collection of 16 freshman women with almost no rowing experience and very different backgrounds who have united under circumstances that few of them expected when they arrived at college.
“They are such a fun bunch, and it’s hard to find a group of people that have that balance of competitiveness as well as wanting to have fun and all be friends,” she said.
Her teammates keep her humble and challenge her every day.
“My teammate next to me beat me in a race earlier this week. But, when we were doing a 2k, she started giving up. I hurt so bad and I was gonna give up too, but I said no. She beat me earlier and, I’m gonna beat her now,” Gordon said.
The sport might seem physical, but it comes with a mental challenge as well.
“It’s all about taking your time, knowing yourself, being strategic and conserving your energy,” she said. “You hurt, and it feels like there is strep throat in your legs, but you see how close you are and say, ‘I’ve rowed 2,000 meters before, I can do it again.’”