Cougar Crew: Continuing a legacy

Cougar Crew is a student-ran rowing team created in 1970; takes a lot of pride in the alumni who still support them today

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COURTESY OF JEREMIAH LEE

Senior Henry McRae describes his position on the Cougar Crew as the team’s CEO and captain.

LAURENCE SINCLAIR, Evergreen reporter

Created in spring 1970, Cougar Crew recently marked its 50th year here at WSU. With its long history, the team has a vast array of traditions and stories.

“We are super lucky to have a really strong alumni base,” club treasurer Ciara McCall said. “We have all these people who have seen the impact [that] crew has had on their life and want to help the current team members.”

After rowing in high school, McCall said she made the decision to join Cougar Crew her sophomore year. Just like the alumni, McCall has also seen how the team can affect one’s life.

“For me, rowing has changed my life every year that I have been in it. It is amazing for making me a better leader, better at time management,” McCall said. “It’s given me my very best friend, and it just teaches you so much if you let it.”

The team is partially led by Henry McRae, the senior team commodore.  As a club sport, Cougar Crew is student-led while also retaining a full-time head coach. McRae describes his position on the team as a two-part role: team CEO and captain.

“I just help manage operation, finances, fundraising but then [for] my captain side I also help lead team morale, culture — kind of different aspects like that,” McRae said.

Because of his role, McRae is actively involved with the people who join Cougar Crew.

“They’re the people that love sports and like working really hard,” McRae said. “Those are the kind of people I like surrounding myself with.”

Now on his fourth year in Cougar Crew, McRae finds the 50-year history of the team more fascinating than ever.

McRae mentioned his favorite tradition, betting your tank, in which the loser of a race must give their tank top to the winner; acting as a sort of a rower’s trophy. Adding another incentive to races, McRae remembers his first time winning a tank his sophomore year.

Head coach Peter Brevick, who joined the team in the 2000s as a rower, returned to coach in August 2017. Brevick, who is deeply involved with Cougar Crew’s legacy, told the story of Paul Enquist, an Olympic gold medalist and WSU alumnus.

Enquist grew up in the Seattle area and came to WSU to play basketball. After basketball did not pan out for him, he decided to try rowing and made history in the process.

This is something that continues to happen on Cougar Crew, Brevick said. He said people without prior rowing experience are still able to succeed on the team.

“Rowing across the country and here at WSU is built on ‘out-of-sport’ walk-ons,” Brevick said. “So, each year about 10 percent of the team has prior rowing experience and then everybody else is learning the sport for the first time.”

As an experienced walk-on rower, Brevick said he understands the learning curve of rowing.

“Rowing is a really, really high rate of return if you put the effort in,” Brevick said. “You’re going to see results and in that sense it very much rewards.”

The team is currently practicing in the Student Recreation Center backyard while adhering to social distancing rules. Those interested in joining can check out their website.