Waking up at 5 AM in the morning, six days out of seven days every week, isn’t something most people look forward to. Now getting up to do physical activity? Fuh-get about it! But for Kayla Russell, a sophomore at the University of Portland, this is a serene time of day. As the captain of University of Portland’s debut D1 rowing team, Kayla loves being on the Willamette River as the sun is rising and the water is still calm. She believes that there is no other time of day that can even begin to rival these early morning practices.
As an avid athlete in high school (a swimmer and a volleyball player), when Kayla was approached at the start of the 2011-2012 school year by the crew coach with an opportunity to represent the university while becoming a competitive athlete again, the answer was almost automatic. Yet, he question of waking up at such an ungodly hour is an issue that would be debated heavily by any college student. “How can you complain about waking up early when you wake up to downtown Portland?” the captain says of the seemingly gruesome practices.
Kayla, a pediatrician hopeful, soon became the most recognized face on the freshly started rowing team, using her friendliness and charisma to spread the word about University of Portland’s newest Division I team. Months before the team’s first regatta (a race that takes place between schools), Kayla had successfully recruited not only close friends, but other interested girls, too!
But after their first regatta in October, misfortune fell upon the team’s biggest motivator, fan, and rower. A back injury and a rib issue questioned her return date to the team and to the early morning water. “An injury like this would have set back even the most strongest-willed athlete, making them question not only themselves, but also their motivation and strength.”
But not Kayla Russell. An incredible athlete with a big heart and a large amount of optimism, Kayla has come to play an even more pivotal role than team captain and team motivator: she has become an inspiration. The strong-willed athlete, while not seeking the title of “inspiration”, has unbeknownst to her become just that due to her continued commitment to the team.
So while one might not see her rowing hard on the ergs just yet, they will see her continue to be a constant and reassuring presence at every single practice (yes, even the ones at 5 AM) and every single regatta. Don’t let her fool you though; soon enough, Captain Kayla Russell will be back on those boats, cruising towards a win for the University of Portland and guiding her team smoothly back onto the Willamette River.
Interested in supporting your crew team? Here is the link for the schedule of upcoming regattas for the University of Portland Women’s Crew team: http://www.portlandpilots.com/schedule.aspx?path=wrowing&tab=womensrowing