It became a routine.
Before the crew and rowing teams could even begin their indoor practice, they had one thing to do: set up more than 20 ergometers.
Nestled in the back of the upper-level of the weight room, each student-athlete was dubbed with the task of moving an ergometer, an indoor rowing machine designed to have a pair of footrests, handles, sliding seats, screens and weights, adding up to roughly 60-80 pounds in weight, to the front of the room, where the teams would conduct their practices. Yet, they had to be careful enough to create a walking path for other student-athletes and strength and conditioning coaches whom they shared the room with.
Then, after more than two hours of vigorous practice, the teams would return the ergs back to their original spots, and do it again the following day.
Now, that will all change due to a brand-new indoor training facility that will mark the teams’ first exclusive training area in more than 20 years.
The new room, often called “the erg room” by members of the men’s and women’s teams, is located just a few doors away from the weight room in the basement of McGonigle Hall. There will be close to 45 ergs, some new, and also spin bikes available to the teams in the new room.
Women’s coach Rebecca Grzybowski said the team will no longer have to set up the ergs, as the machines will be organized and ready for use inside the new room.
“It’s fantastic – it’s awesome,” sophomore crew member Dante Romeo said. “It was a bit annoying being there in the weight room. It was a bit cramped up because it had other teams walking in and out but the fact that we have our own room now makes me feel a lot more appreciated by the school as a student-athlete.”
Junior coxswain Kati Jordan Funck, a member of the crew team, said some of her teammates had to row in the hallway because of limited space.
A group of more than 50 members in itself, Grzybowski said the women’s team generally had to hold double-practices regularly.
Romero said now having the erg room will make for a competitive environment.
“When you are surrounded by only guys on the team and you are that close to them, in an enclosed space, you get to push each other that much more,” Romeo said. “So I think that could something that could add to our success this year.”
The new training room, which previously was a study hall for student-athletes, was redesigned during the summer to have new floors, repainted walls including an additional wall, ventilation and mirrors.
Accompanying the new training room are new lockers for both teams, which longtime men’s coach, Gavin White, said is something new.
“We never used to have lockers on campus,” White said. “We had a boathouse. What we would do is leave our things at the corner of the room and go workout.”
Although the coaching staffs are unsure what the lockers will be used for – likely either storing rowers’ belongings during practice or laundry – the soccer teams will also use the locker room, White said.
There are still some finishing touches to be done to the room, like placing rowing graphics on the wall and adding a whiteboard, on which important rowing times will be written, Grzybowski said. Nevertheless, student-athletes have been venturing into the erg room for voluntary workouts.
Coaches will conduct the majority of their practices in the erg room during the winter months because of the freezing temperatures on the Schuylkill.
Now that the rowing teams both have their facility, the strength and conditioning staff will use the upper-level of the weight room, the rowing teams’ previous indoor space, as an extension of the lower level with cardio equipment, a stretching area and other equipment, according to athletic communications.
The installation of the erg room comes in wake of a tumultuous 2013-14 season in which both programs were initially two of seven teams axed as part of the last December’s athletic cuts. The university later reversed its decision and reinstated the crew and rowing teams this past February, after which rowing senior captain Moira Meekes said the team found out about the new erg room.
“It was a weird year,” Meekes said. “It was a hard year. It was still in that awkward stage where we were originally on one side of the [athletic cuts] and then on the other side of it, so it was super bittersweet. So when everyone was talking about the [new erg room], it was too good to be true. It was the beginning of the light at the end of the tunnel, but you weren’t sure if or when it would happen. So it was really amazing to see we have all new facility.
“We have a new erg room, all new locker rooms and it’s so beautiful,” Meekes added, “and they are beginning to break ground on the [East Park Canoe House]. So everything is happening. It’s awesome.”
Danielle Nelson can be reached at email@example.com and on twitter @Dan_Nels