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Through crew’s eyes: a driving passion

It was rainy, stormy and cold, and Ashley Garza’s whole body was frozen. The Cyclone crew team had just gotten a used boat but, little did they know its rudder was bent. They began their race against Chapman University amidst cold and terrible conditions.

It was spring season and they were racing a Varsity eight-passenger boat for two kilometers.

Ashley Garza fixes tape on her hands during a water break. Rowers often bandage their hands to prevent or help heal blisters that result from friction with the oar. (Alixandra Greenman)

The Cyclones were positioned in the last lane but were ahead of two boats, even with the rudder causing the boat to veer off course, when someone on the team “caught a crab”– their oar got caught underwater, halting the boat to a sudden stop.

Chapman passed Mills and the team started up again to try gaining the lead; with 250 meters to go, Mills passed Chapman and made it to the next round of competition.

Ashley Garza, now a junior, remembers this race vividly from her first year at Mills College. The team was in Vancouver, Wash. for a weekend regatta.

“It was then that I realized that our team had heart and really wanted it as much as I did,” Garza said.

Garza said this mentality holds true today. The team’s goal each year is to do better than the previous year.

This season, the team’s major goal is to make it to the grand finals at the Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association (WIRA) Championship Regatta, which will be held the first weekend in May in Rancho Cordova, Calif.

Ashley describes her day-to-day schedule as “hectic” and “long.” Every morning she gets up at 5 a.m. for practice and meets her teammates in the Haas Pavilion parking lot to head to Briones Reservoir in Orinda, Calif.

Mills, UC Berkeley and Saint Mary’s College all have boathouses and practice on this reservoir daily.

For Garza, who has been an athlete her entire life, crew has brought some unique challenges.

“There are some mornings when you wake up and you just don’t want to go,” Garza said. “I have overcome this by remembering that I am part of a team and can’t let them down.”

Crew has also made her living situation challenging, since she and her roommate have very different schedules.

“We had to work to accommodate each other’s needs. She is quiet at night. I am quiet in the morning,” Garza said.

Even with the occasional road blocks, Garza can’t help but be dedicated to the team because of her close relationship to her teammates.

“I like being part of a team that’s like my second family,” Garza said. “Everyone is accountable for each other.”

Even though getting up early isn’t easy, Garza said she loves that crew pushes her to perform better in school. Garza is a biochemistry major and has classes five days a week in addition to crew.

“With our new coach, we’ve been training hard and are ready for anything,” Garza said. “Row hard and believe that your team has the same passion and will row just as hard as you.”