No stars, no scholarships: WWU rowing finds success the old-fashioned way

BELLINGHAM, Wash. -- Well before the break of dawn, they're out on the water.

The Western Washington women’s crew is out almost every day, putting in more work before 6 a.m. than most of us would dare all day.

“It takes a lot of dedication,” says Hannah Bivans, a senior captain for the WWU crew. She describes her typical daily routine.

“You wake up at about 4 o’clock in the morning. We practice, we get home at about 7:15 p.m. Some of us have 8 o’clock classes, and then we have an afternoon workout. We have more classes, homework, and go to sleep at about 8 p.m. and wake up and do it again.”

That's the sales pitch to join this team. It's a championship team with no superstars, no recruits and no scholarships. Everybody is a walk-on.

“Knowing that the team has your back and that we’re all doing the same thing is definitely a huge motivator,” says senior team member Carly Lant.

“It’s not about the rowing for us,” says Head Coach John Fuchs, who has guided the Vikings to eight national championships in his 21 years.

“There is a list of things that they must accomplish in order to be a great rower,” Fuchs says. “And they are, in no particular order: health, athleticism, education and their inter-squad relationships. So, if they don’t do well with any one of those, they are done. That’s what we’re trying to teach: that there is way more to it than putting the boat in the water and cranking on it, you know?”

But on race day, they crank it - giving everything they have for a race that lasts only six minutes. Coach Fuchs says as gratifying as it is to finish first it's not about winning. It's about something much more important.

“I’ve been doing this long enough that I feel like I have something to teach them about life,” Fuchs says. “About commitment and dedication, you know? If they can take that with them after college, that’s one of my goals.”

“It means a lot to me,” Bivans says. “It really has taught me so much about being a better person and striving for the best, working hard for other people and knowing that you are there to get someone’s back and someone has your back.”