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Provided by Lilly Newton, the rowing club vice president.

OU’s rowing team blends friendship, athleticism

Ohio University currently houses 33 club sports, the majority of which are student-run. Most of the sports listed find homes on courts or fields, but one team’s home is elsewhere: Dow Lake. 

OU’s club rowing organization is a co-ed team of novice rowers. During the spring and fall, the team goes to Strouds Run State Park to practice and compete in regattas, or races. When they aren’t in season, the team is in Charles J. Ping Recreation Center, prepping for the next time it can grace water. 

Members of the team, like Elise O’Donnell, a sophomore studying environmental biology, said joining the team was out of curiosity at the Involvement Fair at the beginning of her freshman year. 

“I was with my roommate and also my best friend Lilly at the time, who was also on the team,” O’Donnell said. “We just had happened to walk past the rowing one, and we were like, ‘This looks interesting.’ So we happened to just join it, and then that was that.”

O’Donnell serves on the executive board of the club as the community service representative along with her best friend, Lilly Newton, a sophomore studying middle childhood education and the rowing club’s vice president. 

“I think it was easier to be part of the team if I had like someone there that I knew because I wasn't as nervous,” Newton said. “But then together we both actually enjoyed it, and we went to all the practices together -- and competitions -- and now we're both on the exec board, and we run the team together with a couple other people.”


During the fall, the team competes in 5000-meter races, and in the spring, it competes in 2000-meter races, all while practicing three to four times a week. The team has traveled to Columbus, Marietta and Parkersburg to compete against other universities, like Ohio State University. However, this spring, the team hasn’t been able to get out on the water because Strouds won’t allow the team to keep its boats there. 

“We can't tow the boats back and forth every single time we need to practice,” O’Donnell said. “(It) has stopped us from practicing at some points because we don't have a place to store the boats. It's been having to make a contract with people and all these other legal things that is a little bit more difficult for a club team to do since we don't have the university backing us.”

Jerry Pollock, the park manager at Strouds Run, said to his knowledge, the team was asked to remove its trailers for the winter, but he has no recollection of telling the team they can’t practice for the spring. 

“I believe there has been a misunderstanding – OU was asked, ‘With the onset of winter, please remove your trailer and the three johnboats that are next to the water,’” Pollock said in an email. “They are permitted to operate as they have in the past – the request for removal was only for the offseason.”

O’Donnell said the team gets around 30-50 newcomers every semester and there is no experience needed to join the team. OU’s rowing club tends to keep expenses under $100 for the entire year. In addition to these things, O’Donnell and Newton said the team provides strong friendships and a great full-body workout. 

“It's just a very welcoming and fun team to join, and it's really nice, and I guess you get a really good workout,” Newton said. “In the fall when we start going up again, it’s going to be super fun. We're going to have a lot of socials, we're going to have study sessions … We're going to try and get on the water as much as possible.”

For the 2024-25 Fall Semester, the team has appointed Melissa Anderson, an assistant professor of exercise physiology, as its coach. She said she’s excited to get started in the fall and has already started working with the team on its goals. 

“I'm all about just helping them facilitate any goals that they have,” she said. “So if there are certain split times they want as far as their own personal performance goals go or if they have more collective team goals, to compete at a specific regatta or to place in a certain event, I really just want to drive my own coaching based on the needs and the wants of the team.”

Anderson has high hopes for joining the team alongside O’Donnell and Newton, and together, members of the team will look to make waves in the competition this fall. 

“Rowing is a merit-based sport,” Anderson said. “It really means you get out what you put in so you could start this sport with any skill level and become really successful at it as long as you are willing to dedicate some time … So anyone can try it. Rowing is a sport for anyone.”


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