In some ways, the Frostbite and Braxton regattas bridge all of the traditional seasons of high school and college rowing – the mid-November timing coupled with a two-day 2K sprint format join elements of fall rowing, the winter training grind where you might do multiple hard pieces in a day, and the spring 2k distance complete with a racing start and lane lines.
For many young people just getting into rowing, these might be their first sprint races, or even their first races ever; for decades now, the Frostbite and Braxton have been the first time countless budding rowers have ever lined up side by side for a rowing race – and it can be intense.
Stockton State junior Breana Pereira has worked as a lifeguard and competed as a swimmer, but after rowing about 10 times in the boat in her lifetime, found herself at the Frostbite starting line for the first time on Saturday in the Novice Eight event amidst all the noise and waves and intensity – and seemed to like it.
"On the way up, we're taking nice, easy strokes, then we're lining up - and then they say go, and you just go," she recalled after the race. "Referring back to swimming, once they say go, you dive, and you keep a streamline and you keep calm; you have that lull underneath the water. But here, you just go - Bam! - and then you have to keep that pace."
"But you've got to follow that rhythm," she continued. "It's not something that you can just pick up on right away; you're going to have a little setbacks, but once you focus on that rhythm, the person in front of you, you tune out everything else.
"It is noisy, everyone's yelling, and it's very anxious," she said, albeit with a smile. "Our coxswain Jillian (Umali), right before we took off, she told us to breathe. And that is the one thing that I know should be natural, and the one natural thing I completely forgot. I thought, you know what? I'm gonna breathe!"
Pereira enjoys the team element of rowing in the eight
"I've never been in a team sport where one person's actions affects everyone's performance," she said. "In swimming, we were given one lane, and it is just you. It's nice to be a part of a team where their actions affect you and your actions affect them as a whole. We're all in the same boat, literally!"
And on Sunday, she was coming back for more, tossing off one of the best and most apt similes for a first rowing race I have encountered at row2k.
"It's like watching a horror film for the first time, and you got all the scary parts done with, and then you watch the movie again," she said. "You already know what to expect, so you shouldn't be scared about anything. I feel more confident about the second race. I'm excited I got to do this race and I got it over with, and I have this high. We came together as a team, we did the most consecutive strokes we've ever done. It was really fun, and I'm excited to go through the same high tomorrow."
Pereira and her team are done racing for the fall, but are already plotting out their winter with an eye toward spring.
"We grew a bond as a team, and we have a little group message going on where we always ask if we want to work out together in the off-season," she said. We want to come back in the spring better than ever."