Hartford, Conn. - For any senior athlete at Trinity College, it is quite the whirlwind to finish that final season, and look back on a career through a nostalgic lens. Deane Pless, senior co-captain of the Bantam women's rowing team, can definitely attest to this. After walking onto the team as a freshman and having a highly-successful, four-year career on the water, she believes that rowing has been a crucial part of her experience at Trinity and would not have wanted it any other way.
When Pless joined the team, she had never before sat in a crew shell, and never even understood the sport. Knowing she wanted to remain active in college, joining the team was not necessarily part of her initial plan, but three years later she feels it was one of the best decisions of her life.
"Over the course of my first year I learned just how much you had to push yourself in order to be successful, and being able to look up to incredibly successful athletes, I started putting in extra hours of training in order to get faster," said Pless. "Rowing is a sport where there is always room for improvement. I can argue that I was learning new things about myself as a rower even in the weeks up to my last collegiate race," she adds.
Since her start, Pless has pushed herself to earn some of the highest accolades and accomplishments in the realm of collegiate rowing. She was a gold medalist in the novice eight event at the 2014 New England Championships, a silver medalist in the second-varsity eight at the 2015 National Invitational Rowing Championship (NIRC) Regatta, and the recipient of the team's Torch Award in 2016, which is given to the team member who has done the most to foster and perpetuate Trinity women's rowing. Although she was a part of the team that won the National Championship for NCAA Division III Rowing in 2014, she recalls one of her favorite rowing memories to be when the team finished as the National Runner-Up the following year.
"It was bittersweet that our varsity won the grand final, but due to our overall team score, we were slated as runner-up in the team standings. Despite that, understanding all of the hard work, discipline, and preparation that went into that moment, made that a day one I will never forget," she states, reflecting on the event in Sacramento, California in 2015. "I am so proud of that day because I knew after the race how much hard work each one of my teammates had put into making our boat move, and even though we were not national champions, we were still incredibly successful. Being able to watch and cheer for the varsity eight as it came down the race course and won the grand final was one of the proudest moments of my life."
Looking past the quantifiable success of Pless and her team over the years, she believes the overall experience she's received from the program has had a major impact on her identity.
"When I think of my rowing career, I think of all of the opportunities Trinity rowing has given me. I have been able to be in a community full of inspirational role models throughout my four years, and had the opportunity to look up to some of the most involved, driven, and vibrant women on the college campus. Being part of a team where everyone cares so immensely about each other and the success of the team shaped me in ways that I honestly don't even know, to this day," she fondly explains.
Pless feels that the sport of rowing specifically was able to teach her the true value of hard work, team work and that nothing comes without effort.
"It is constantly happening, 12 months a year. Whether you are training alone or with friends. Rowing is the ultimate team sport, while still having a very individual component about it. Each person has to be able to push themselves to be the most fit and prepared version of themselves, but at the end of the day you race in boats with nine people in them, and you must be able to row together if you want to be successful."
One piece of Trinity rowing that Pless says she will continue to live by post-graduation is the "Broomstick Doctrine," established by legendary former Trinity men's coach Larry Gluckman. It is the idea that you should leave every place that you come across better than you found it, in both physical and mental regards.
As a co-captain this year, Pless found the position to be both an honor and a lot of hard work. "My goal for this season, taking into consideration that we have a very young team and a new coach, was to establish an environment and community that people want to be a part of," she stated.
While the team did not have as successful as a season as they would have liked, Pless hopes that her class established a pedestal for success in the coming years as the team gains fitness and experience.
Eliza Rogers, a sophomore on the team, spoke very highly of Pless and her leadership. "Deane is one of the best captains I have had. She always had a smile on her face even when crew was hard. She was constantly there for her teammates and wanted the best for Trinity women's rowing. Not only is Deane a great athlete but also a great teammate."
Like any collegiate sport, rowing is definitely a time commitment that requires skilled time management. Most practices begin at 5 a.m. on the water, followed by a day of classes and then other rowing commitments such as lift or erging indoors. Despite the strenuous schedule, Pless found that rowing actually improved her performance in school.
"While this was not always easy, having friends on the team to support each other throughout the time demands of being in season was extremely helpful," Deane added.
From traveling all over the country to places like Indianapolis, Atlanta, and Sacramento, and all throughout the northeast for competitions, to learning from three different coaches with different backgrounds of experience and success, Pless feels very rewarded from her four years as a part of Trinity women's rowing.
"Being a rower at Trinity has been one of the most defining experiences of my life," she adds. Without the team and the friends that I have made, my experience at Trinity would have not been the same."
written by Chandler Solimine '19