About 10 strides — that’s all it took for Lauren Hill to feel the nagging pain in her right knee on a run to the Philadelphia Museum of the Art from the East Park Canoe House during practice.
But Hill, who is also suffering from back spasms due to poor erging form, continued to practice and battled through the throbbing and swelling.
“You suck it up and get used to it,” the sophomore walk-on said.
Hill’s injury forced her out of the lineup about a month ago. The coaches moved her away from the oars and put her in the stern of the boat as the Novice 4’s coxswain. The coxswain doesn’t row, but is a member of the team who steers the boat and provides motivation for her crew.
“From being a rower, she really understood everything, like, technically and knew what to say,” freshman Allie Rainey said. “Since she has been in our position in the fall and throughout all of winter training, you know what you want to hear, and that’s pretty much what everyone else is going to want to hear. She picked it up real fast. She’s killing it.”
Last weekend at the Knecht Cup in West Windsor, New Jersey, Hill took full advantage of a competitor’s boat falling victim to the challenges of Lake Mercer. In the last 250 meters of the race, Fordham University’s second-place boat “caught a bad crab,” meaning its oar got stuck underwater.
Hill started yelling, screaming and banging on the boat as her teammates rowed themselves past Fordham, which ended up finishing fourth as Temple placed second with a time of eight minutes, 22.67 seconds.
“They were saying all of the sudden Satan came out,” graduate assistant Julia Rorer said.
Rorer needed another coxswain and recently started to practice with Hill in the role. Hill, who is more of a quiet person, was hesitant about transitioning to the position.
In Hill’s first practice as the novice boat’s coxswain, she was only in charge of steering the boat. Rorer followed the novice boat in a motor-powered boat, shouting commands with a megaphone to motivate her team.
Hill took her notes and observed during that practice. During her next time on the water, she had no problems multi-tasking in the stern. Rorer wasn’t there because she had class, but assistant coach Taylor Wasserleben told her you couldn’t even tell it was Hill’s second day as a coxswain.
Rorer noticed the paint Hill usually has on her hands when she arrives to practice. Hill, who started playing with sculpting clay when she was a kid, is an art major at the Tyler School of Art with a concentration in printmaking. She also takes a glassblowing class.
Right after practice, Hill heads to the studio at Tyler for a few hours, but she has also dabbed her paint brush around other parts of Main Campus.
Hill helped her friend, sophomore media studies and production major Jaclyn Silvestri, who is on TUTV’s comedy show, “Temple Smash,” paint sets for the show. Hill painted the background of an Italian restaurant for a show.
Hill wishes she could keep helping with the show, but it interfered with her rowing schedule. She also was on the stage crew back at Downingtown West High School. She painted a set for “Cinderella.”
During Welcome Week, Hill noticed the rowing team had a booth, and she grabbed a flyer. She decided to try out for the team, and she was one of 15 people to make the roster.
In high school, Hill was the saxophone section leader in the band. She didn’t play any sports. The transition to Division I athlete has been challenging, but rewarding for Hill.
She guided the Novice 4 to a second-place finish at Saturday’s Kerr Cup on the Schuylkill.
“It’s kind of like a blessing in disguise,” Hill said. “It just all worked out in the end because I’ve really taken a liking to being a coxswain. I’ve picked it up really well.”
Tom Ignudo can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Ignudo5.