Competitive Crew


Olalla Levi ’23 rowing with her team.

Andrew Spielfogel ’23

Whenever the words “rowing” or “crew” are mentioned, one tends to think of intense races between serious athletes. Two sophomores at Ramaz are each part of crew teams. Five times a week, four seasons a year, Olalla Levi ’23 and Max Hallas ’23 row on the Long Island sound for two and a half hours.

Crew is a sport where a group of teammates in a narrow boat race against other teams by pushing against the water with their oars. Levi has been rowing since the sixth grade, with a special rowing machine called an erg. It’s important to practice on this machine because “if you don’t have the right form, the amount of power you exert is not going to be as efficient and you can get injured” said Levi. The winter season is about power, endurance, and building up your strength. “Training on the erg is about how strong you are mentally. When you are on the water you see the land going by and it’s a whole other setting. The real power that you get can’t only be on a boat because you also want to see your numbers [which tell you how fast you are going]. Only the coxswain [head of the boat] can see your numbers on a boat. You train a lot for power on the erg, which demonstrates how fast you are going to go on the boat,” said Olalla. After training on the erg, once the Spring season started she transferred to a barge on the water, which is a wider boat that can’t flip over.

Max learned how to row during a two-week rowing program, since the rowing course he was supposed to attend this summer was canceled. This is actually Max’s first winter season since he only began rowing six months ago. Max learned about rowing from his cousin who was on crew for his sophomore year.

Crew races “are one of the reasons why you stay in the sport since they are the most fun things,” said Olalla. These races, formally known as “regattas,”  usually happen in all of the seasons except for winter. The Spring season is all about fast and skilled races, Summer is about the fun of it, and the Fall season is about newcomers where the longest races are held. 

There are also a variety of boats for racing: eight-person boats, four person boats, and doubles.There are four-person boats and doubles, which have two people. These races are great bonding experiences for crew teams. At City Island Rowing where Olalla practices, there are team bonding trips throughout the year. Usually, her team has the opportunity to travel to Florida for team strengthening exercises. This is ultimately how she gets closer to her teammates: “The chemistry in the boat is so important for how hard you guys will push for winning,” said Olalla.

Rowing is not all about the competition, but about the friends one makes and fun experiences. This is why Olalla began crew. “I had a really close friend in 6th grade and she didn’t go to my school. We wanted to hang out more. I didn’t have any extracurriculars and she told me that some girl came off her team so I should join them. I started because it was really fun with friends…The people you meet from rowing are so fun and amazing. Even though the sport is super challenging and it’s the most tasking sport that I can think of, the people you meet, the exercise you’re getting, and what it brings out in you are really great,” said Olalla. 

Max also developed close friendships with his teammates, even though his crew team, Pelham Community Rowing Association, is currently on Zoom. He usually goes out to dinner and plays video games with them. “[Rowing is] a great environment being with friends supporting you. This is something I miss a lot,” said Max. During their first time rowing together, they were rowing really fast but not really well, since they were in an old boat. “One of the riggers broke off so we got stranded there. We were all laughing and wet because we just splashing each other,” said Max. These bonds strengthen the trust between teammates.

This sport is so intense that sometimes during the Spring season Olalla wakes up at four am to get to the place by five. 

Managing time is a big part of being on crew. For Olalla, sometimes she has to leave school early to get to the gym at four pm to practice. When she’s on the water she usually has morning practices at five am. While Olalla rows during sunrise, Max rows while the sun sets. Max usually gets home at four pm and quickly gets changed for practice which starts at five pm. Usually, he doesn’t have time to do work that night.


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