From the North Discover Crew
By Jessie Fredlund ’07
In Alaska, where rivers are frigid
and icy for almost the entire year, crew isn't the competitive
sport at the collegiate level that it is in the lower 49.
Yet for three women from the
49th state, who traveled 3,000 miles in August to join Smith’s
class of 2010, crew has become an important part of their
First-years Victoria Fraser,
Julia Nave and Julie Olson are from three different cities
in Alaska and did not know each other before the semester
They do now.
Though none of them had any rowing
or boating experience in their background, all three women
were interested in crew before arriving on campus. Smith gave
them their first chance to try the sport, and within their
first week on campus, they joined the team.
Nave, who grew up in Juneau,
the Alaska state capital, learned about crew from her mother,
Susan Cox ’78, who rowed for Smith in her student years.
At the time, crew was a club sport.
“When my mom was at Smith,
they just went back and forth in Paradise Pond,” Nave
Now, Smith crew is a full-fledged,
competitive team sport that has taken two consecutive silver
medals in national competition in the past two years. Still,
crew coaches encourage students with little or no experience
to come out for the team. The welcoming feel Nave sensed from
coaches at Central Check-In as they recruited new team members
helped motivate her to sign up immediately.
Olson grew up in Fairbanks, the
northernmost of Alaska’s three main cities. She knew
nothing about rowing until she came across the term “crew”
in a list of possible extra-curricular activities while filling
out college applications last winter. She can barely even
swim, she admits.
Olson became intrigued after
asking her high school librarian what crew meant and talking
with her teachers about the sport. She was attracted to crew’s
reputation for being fun, but also intense. Olson was also
eager to sign up in her first week at school.
Learning to balance crew with
schoolwork and a job has been a challenge, says Olson, but
she plans to remain on the team in future years.
Growing up in Anchorage, Alaska’s
largest city, Fraser often heard about crew from her father,
a former rower who follows the sport. After her acceptance
to Smith, Victoria learned from her father about the college’s
When Fraser met team captain
Kim Paull ’07 during pre-orientation, she was persuaded
to give the sport a try. Since then, she’s been hooked.
The intensity of the sport has been no deterrent to Fraser.
She enjoys the group of students the sport attracts -- those
committed enough to stagger out of bed at 5 a.m. six days
a week for a rigorous workout on the Connecticut River.
about crew is that everybody loves it almost the same amount,”
As teammates and classmates, the three Alaskan students have
become friends since the start of crew season, though they
didn’t realize at first they were all from the same
It was on the way to crew
practice one day early in the season when Nave and Olson discovered
they shared a home state. Walking across campus, Nave ran
to see a willow tree -- nonexistent in Alaska’s northern
clime -- up close for the first time.
Olson followed, explaining
that it was also her first time seeing a willow. Looking at
the tree together, they each quickly guessed the reason for
the other’s excitement.
Although being so far from
home isn’t easy, the three students are happy with their
decision to come to Smith.
“I love the people
and the feel of it,” Fraser says about the college.
Nave agrees: “It
makes being on the East Coast and being so far away from home