Crew Means Family by Angelina Campanile, PCRA '18, Northwestern '22

Freshman rowing at Northwestern University

Freshman rowing at Northwestern University

You think the Orchard Beach Lagoon is small? Try rowing on the Skokie Channel in Skokie, Illinois. You can fit two eights next to each other…on a good day…but it requires some very talented steering. 

There was never a doubt in my mind that I would row in college, whether it be varsity or club. I would find a way to row. Before I set foot on campus, I like to say I already knew that the Northwestern crew team would be my family, just as PCRA was for me in high school. No more than an hour after opening the door to my new dorm on move in day, I was outside playing frisbee with the team while my mother and father were setting up my room. 

Last year I wrote a reflection about rowing at PCRA in which I talked about how PCRA rowers push for their teammates rather than themselves. They row for their boat and ultimately for their family. Crew teams are families. I’ve only been a part of two crew teams in my life, but from what other rowers tell me, from what I see at regattas and from what I’ve experienced for myself, crew team means family. It did for me in high school and it does for me now. That’s just how it is.

Disclaimer: college isn’t easy. It’s hard. I’ve learned more about the world, life and myself in the past six months than I have in the other 18 years I’ve been on this planet. Throughout all the change, all of the uncertainties, all of the new, crew has been my constant. Waking up six days a week at 5am is my foundation. It’s exhausting, don’t get me wrong, but it’s worth it. Not only do I wake up to do my coach’s favorite workouts (6ks at a 34 full press) knowing that I will be falling asleep in my 9:30am class…I wake up to start the day off with my family and doing something for someone else. 

Every day after practice we have breakfast together, we study together in the library, we have team dinners every Friday and we go out of our way to be there for each other, always. Rowing at Northwestern has taught me how to better manage my time. Waking up so early every morning requires us to make sure we get our work done in order to get a reasonable amount of sleep each night. I’ve also established a new perspective of rowing from my teammates. Out of the 55 members of the team, only five of us have rowed in high school. No one on this team is rowing because they are working to achieve a college scholarship, because we’re already here, and no one on this team is rowing because they have to, since we are a club team and there are no athletic scholarships offered. We row together because we want to be with our friends, our family. 

I couldn’t imagine where I would be if I stopped rowing after high school. If I had to give advice to any graduating seniors, it would be to keep rowing wherever you end up. Don’t row because you feel like you have to. Row because you love it and it’s a one-of-a-kind sport. Transitioning into a college with no one I knew, a plane ride away from home, and nowhere near that lagoon was perhaps the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. I am so grateful for PCRA exposing me to a sport that, as cheesy as it sounds, is my rock, and for allowing me to see that wherever I go, whatever crew team I’m on, there will always be a family waiting with open arms (and preferably some sculling boats because apparently that’s not a thing here). 

- Angelina Campanile, PCRA Class of 2018, Northwestern University Crew Class of 2022

Head of the Charles

Head of the Charles

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MaryAnn Provenzano