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ERIN GANNON'S LEAP OF FAITH LEADS TO SUCCESSFUL WOMEN'S ROWING CAREER

Hartford, Conn. - Four years ago, Erin Gannon (Lincoln, R.I.) took a leap of faith when she decided to pick up a sport she had never tried before. Little did she know, she was setting herself up for a remarkable career as a student-athlete at Trinity. As a recently graduated senior, Erin navigated her way to becoming an essential part of the women's crew team’s first varsity eight boat, and equally distinguished herself in the classroom.

Coming in as a freshman, soccer had always been Erin’s dominant sport. But when a friend suggested she give rowing a try, she took the jump and went for it. She recalls learning the ins and outs of erging indoors over the first three weeks of her rookie season, and not falling in love with the experience immediately. However, once the team finally got out onto the water, everything changed. “Being on water and actually getting to practice racing was awesome," Gannon recalls. "Even though I still didn’t know the sport, I clicked with the team right away and that’s what kept me in it."

At just 5 feet tall, Erin doesn’t have a traditional rower’s build. Rowing utilizes every major muscle group and puts a great emphasis on leg strength. With this being said, the typical rower is very tall, enabling them to cover more ground and maximize the power of each stroke. Being almost an entire foot shorter than most of her teammates, Erin had to adapt her rowing style and technique to keep with the rhythm of everyone else in the boat. “At first it was difficult for me to understand that someone could be in perfect rowing shape, and be fast on the erg, but not have the technical part down. It was hard to get a hang of the rhythm in the boat because my legs are shorter, and everyone’s timing must be perfectly in sync to be successful,” she explained. The team has coined Erin’s style in the boat as “extreme rowing,” given that she had to morph her own natural stroke and body movement, and often put in extra effort to get up to speed, in order to match that of everyone else’s.

Combating her size has been the greatest challenge of Erin’s rowing career, but year by year, she was able to overcome it. Head Women's Rowing Coach Heather Barney (3rd season) believes that Erin embodies the four year upward trajectory she hopes everyone who comes through the program to have. Erin went from walking onto the team as a freshman and not being boated, to third varsity as a sophomore, second varsity as a junior, and finally the bow seat of the varsity eight as a senior.

There are two erg tests each member of the team must complete each year, and the goal of these tests is to do better and improve the older you get. Erin beat her personal record her senior year on both of these tests, something that no senior had accomplished during the two previous seasons. The moment Erin beat her PR was one that Coach Barney feels epitomizes her progression and growth. “Our team emphasizes what we call the ‘Broomstick Doctrine’ which encourages our rowers to leave things better than they found it. She and the rest of her class had a vision to make the program better, and they most definitely have raised the bar for the younger classes,” Coach Barney explained.

Gannon not only developed as a rower over the past four years, but also as a leader. She served as her team’s co-captain this year, and according to Coach Barney, she led by example and had the power to steer her teammates in the right direction. “She values relationships and has a great awareness of her teammates. She can also put her head down and get work done when it needs to get done.” Rowing is in season in both during the fall and the spring semesters, so keeping up with high level training during the winter is essential. As captain, Erin’s goal was to motivate her teammates to put the work in during these winter months to come back ready for the spring and raise the standard of work ethic throughout the team.

The unique qualities of rowing compared to other sports has contributed to the passion she has developed for the sport and her team. “With other sports I played before Trinity such as soccer, it’s easy for there to be a star of the team, or for someone to have a good day or a bad day. But with rowing, there is no individual standout. When you’re in the boat it’s all eight people working together, moving at the same, synchronized pace. That is the definition of a successful rowing team. This cohesiveness that is so essential to our sport gives my teammates and I the feeling of being a part of something greater than ourselves,” she explains.

She also values the accountability that comes along with training for her sport. When erging in the off-season, the machines give feedback on the timing of every single stroke one makes, which creates a new level of awareness of whether or not the rhythm or stride is perfect. “I love how this style of training holds us accountable and we know when we aren’t doing our best. I think this sense of accountability is one thing that will definitely stick with me beyond rowing and after graduation,” she explained.

One moment that stands out to Erin during her rowing career was the team’s first race this spring against Tufts University. “They’ve blown us out of the water in the past, and we didn’t have a full race plan fleshed out going into this one, but Coach asked us to go as hard as we could for the first 1,000 meters and to work with where that took us,” Erin recalls. Right off the line, Trinity took the lead by a complete boat length, and despite Tufts catching up towards the end, the Bantams were able to pull off the win by less than a second. “It was frantic and exciting at the same time. I remember just smiling through the entire race.” Rowing teams follow a tradition that entails the losing crew at a regatta to give the winning crew “betting shirts,” or shirts with their school’s logo on it. The goal is to acquire as many betting shirts from other teams as possible. “After having to pass along so many of our shirts to other teams at other regattas, the feeling of finally being handed over a shirt we earned from a team we beat was awesome,” Erin stated.

The crew schedule is strenuous throughout the entire length of the school year, with 5 a.m. practices and 4:30 a.m. wake up calls being nothing out of the ordinary. Despite this demanding time commitment, Erin was able to thrive academically as well, as a double major in Psychology and Film. This year she completed not one, but two senior theses, one for each of her respective majors. She was named a Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association (CRCA) National Scholar Athlete during her junior year and is expected to earn the same recognition this year. She credits her academic success to rowing, given that the packed schedule helped her prioritize her time and get work done when she needed to. Erin hopes to attend graduate school in several years to pursue her passion for film and production.

This final regatta of the season was the National Invitational Rowing Championship (NIRC), where all of the top Division III teams from the Northeast competed. Last spring, Trinity finished in 15th place, but thanks to this year's leadership from teammates like Gannon, the Bantams improved and finished in the top-12, which was the team's goal heading into the race.

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