So Many Mornings: On the Water With Virginia Women’s Rowing Team

November 15, 2021 By Anne E. Bromley, anneb@virginia.edu Anne E. Bromley, anneb@virginia.edu

Inspired by the dedication and enthusiasm of the University of Virginia’s women’s rowing team, photographer Sanjay Suchak has been sporting his camera during their practices, as well as those of the men’s club team, for several years, especially when held in the early mornings on the picturesque Rivanna Reservoir.

He invited this UVA Today writer (who has an MFA from the University of Virginia) to ponder and ply his photos for poetic inspiration. It turns out both of us put in brief stints with rowing teams while in college (more than a few years ago).

The University women’s varsity rowing team, with a roster of 80 student-athletes, practices under head coach Kevin Sauer, who’s in his 27th season after leading the club program for seven years. The Cavalier women, competing with varsity eight and varsity four boats, have won multiple ACC and NCAA championships.

On Sunday, they swept the races at the annual Rivanna Romp, topping teams from Clemson, Duke, Louisville, North Carolina and Southern Methodist universities and the U.S. Naval Academy.

The following poem unfolds with a stanza of free verse accompanying each image.

So Many Mornings on the Water

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Out of the fog appear boats of women – 

rowers who spend so many mornings in practice,

gliding across the water until it feels like flying.

In the late fall of dark beginnings, they carry

sleek boats to the reservoir shore.

Prepared to give up solid ground,

they take their places in the shell.

Each woman grips a long oar that gives

the illusion of overcoming the uncertain,

slippery world so many mornings when fog

blurs boundaries between sky, land, water.

so many blue mornings of rocking
in the water’s wavering, unsteady at first
until light shimmers on the surface

 

The oars whisper of racing dreams, and the only way

to keep afloat, to move faster – by making the oars stroke together.

Coxswain’s voice like a bird’s urges them to pull harder,

to count on their own reserves so many cold mornings that require

letting go of steam, repeating the rhythms of knees and arms

with strength and effort, as they prepare for coming contests.

That won’t replace so many mornings of quiet concentration

as they chase the bracing day, brushing autumn everywhere.

So many mornings of practice

dipped in beauty and left behind

as the mist disappears in the flow of life.

Media Contact

Anne E. Bromley

University News Associate Office of University Communications