Out here, among the rolling hills of the Palouse, generations of rowers have pulled hard.
They’ve learned life lessons on the Snake River, where conditions can change instantaneously and team work is essential. They’ve forged lifelong friendships. They’ve made memories.
Here, a few former WSU oarsmen share theirs.
The Idea Man
Rich Stager (‘74, Civ. Eng.) started his freshman year at WSU Pullman in fall 1970. His parents had recently moved to Pullman; his father had taken a job as a project manager for the construction of Lower Granite Dam.
They came from behind—counting their strokes, catching the Belgian boat, and gliding to gold on California’s Lake Casitas.
Theirs was the first Olympic gold medal in men’s double sculls for the U.S. since 1932. To date, it remains the last medal of any kind for America in that event.
While they took first place, neither had been selected by U.S. Olympic coaches.
Rowing partners Paul Enquist (’77 Mech. Eng.) and Brad Lewis earned their spot at the 1984 Summer Olympics by challenging—and besting—the national team.
“We didn’t take no for an answer,” says Enquist, who—along with Lewis—was cut from the Olympic selection camp.
About three … » More …
In March, alumni and team members of men’s crew, the oldest sport club at WSU, gathered for Cougar Crew Days, as they do each year. But this year’s celebration had special significance: 40 years of rowing competitions.
Rich Stager ’74 and Ken Abbey, vice president of business affairs, formed the crew team in 1969, built the Cougar Shell House on the Snake River, and appointed landscape architecture professor Ken Struckmeyer as the first coach. The team entered competition in 1973.
The Cougar Crew Days included a banquet, auction, and the annual race between team members and alumni. According to Doug Engle ’80, they raised … » More …
Early one afternoon in June, former head football coach Jim Walden drops by the newly-renovated WSU Athletics weight room to check in on the project.
Just a few students are working out. However, Walden observes, the relative tranquility belies how active the room usually is in the fall when scores of athletes from a variety of sports are in for training.
When he ran the football program between 1978 and 1986, getting his team quality time in the weight room was a regular challenge. “Having coached my entire career, and college especially, time is of the importance to athletes,” said … » More …
Ten years ago, as Marilyn Eylar Conaway (’56 Hist.) rowed an inflatable boat on an Alaskan lake, she pictured herself as a girl working the oars of her father’s handmade boat.
The thought recalled the simple joys of an idyllic childhood in Grand Coulee, where her father had helped build the dam. But both of Conaway’s parents and three of her six siblings had since died, her husband Gerry’s heart was faltering, she herself had heart disease, and she was about to end a storied career in education.
That day, memory became mission: Conaway didn’t want to rock a chair; she wanted to row a … » More …
So here I am, about to row with the Washington State women’s rowing team on the Snake River.
This is not the first time I have rowed. That occurred a week before when I took some strokes in the new indoor rowing facility at the Bohler Athletic Complex. This is, however, to be my maiden voyage on an actual body of water.
A benefit of the indoor facility is that it allows coaches to provide one-on-one instruction, rather than shouting commands from a distance at the river.
After my first few strokes of the oar, Head Coach Jane LaRiviere walked over and grabbed my hands. … » More …
Eight graying heads lean forward in unison and then back as 16 oars slide into the water and propel the boat forward. A racing shell of 50-somethings streaks by the Wawawai Landing as a crowd of more than three dozen Washington State University’s men’s crew alumni gather around the boathouse on the shores of the Snake River.
It is Saturday, March 15, and regardless of a chill wind and choppy waters, former team members have come from as far as Brazil for the annual Cougar Crew Days, a weekend event allowing current and former oarsmen, coxswains, and coaches, along with family and friends, to gather … » More …