Row, row, row your boat: Crew builds on community of intense competition

Arjun Patel (top), Megan Baniewicz, Adrianna Vinogradov and two other members of Baylor Crew compete at Riversport Adventures on Sept. 29, 2018 in Oklahoma City. Photo courtesy of Baylor Crew

By Stasya Hopp | Reporter

Track, but on water. This is how Baylor Crew president Megan Baniewicz would describe crew to a person who had no knowledge of the sport.

Baylor Crew is a unique team — everyone may row individually, but working together is imperative to their success.

Crew is currently a club sport, but Aveiro, Portugal, native Lucas Jorge, who was appointed crew head coach in the fall of 2019, said Baylor Crew could be on its way to becoming a Division I Baylor team. There are currently only two Division I rowing teams in Texas: Southern Methodist University and the University of Texas.

Jorge said he believes the intensity of crew combined with the immaculate teamwork it requires draws people to the sport. Crew is “about racing, it’s about being faster, but it’s also about community,” Jorge said.

This community is founded on the uniqueness of the sport and the precise teamwork it requires. Sophia Branden, head coxswain of Baylor Crew, said crew is truly a team sport.

“It’s so cohesive and so intense,” Branden said.

Rowers compete in regattas in boats or racing shells, in teams of two, four or eight. Boats of four and eight have an additional fifth and ninth person in their boat, respectively, called a coxswain. A coxswain steers and directs the boat while making sure rowers are in sync. Branden said every rower must be perfectly in tune with the team in order to compete successfully.

Baylor Crew competes in regattas like the Steerhead Regatta in Fort Worth, and even puts on its own regatta called Head of the Brazos. Baylor competes against other university teams like Texas, TCU and Texas A&M.

In crew, teamwork is essential to success, and it’s something Jorge said is supported by the team’s environment of “unity and diversity.”

“Becoming better and becoming a family is what keeps us waking up at 5 a.m.,” Jorge said.

This kind of intensity is why Baniewicz said crew has taught her work ethic, and she said about her teammates, “if I called on any of them, they’d help me out, and I want to pour back into them.”

Jorge rowed for 10 years in Portugal, including his time competing for the Portuguese national team, medaling nationally in 2012 and 2013. Jorge said he came to Baylor in the fall of 2017 to earn his Master of Divinity at Truett Seminary and is concentrating in sports ministry because he wants to become a sports chaplain. After rowing for Baylor for a year and a half, he was asked to become the assistant coach and was voted in as head coach this past fall.

“Once you join a team, you know that the narrative is bigger than yourself,” Jorge said. “It’s not that you are just trying to be the best because you want to show off. You want to be the best so you can contribute to a bigger narrative.”