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Once upon a boat: Alumnus keeps team going, rowing

Once upon a boat: Alumnus keeps team going, rowing

Kendra Zonca ’20 February 11, 2020

For UD women’s rowing, new boats are handled with extra care and attention.

Anna Benton (left) and Isabelle Blanchard in the team's indoor practice facility. Photo by Kat Niekamp ’21. 

A boat arrives wrapped in plastic and needs to be put together. Excited rowers are eager to touch the shoes and seats. “They strive for the opportunity to be in the top boat,” said Mike Wenker, head coach.

Soon, the team gathers with family and friends to christen the boat. Words are spoken, water from the finish line is poured over the bow, and the name of the hull is unveiled. The new boat launches and sprints by the dock for the crowd to see.

Longtime UD athletics donor Jim Marten ’81 has been supporting the women’s rowing team since 2016. His donations enable the team to purchase new equipment and boats.

“They strive for the opportunity to be in the top boat.”

“I wanted to direct my funds to an athletic program where my donations would have more of an impact,” Marten said.

While athletic department funds allow for a competitive race schedule and team uniforms, the budget does not allow for regular purchases of equipment.

In the fall, the team practices in the older boats to limit wear and tear on the top boats.

“The team relies on fundraising and donations to purchase new equipment,” Wenker said.

Rowing is an expensive sport. “The initial expense of a top-of-line 8+ is between $30,000 and $46,000,” Wenker said, adding that with regular maintenance, the boat for eight rowers and a coxswain can last more than 20 years.

Donations enable the team to compete at a high level against some of the top rowing programs in the country.

“Our conference is almost all along the East Coast, and we are required to travel eight or more hours to compete. Without the support from donors, we would not be able to travel and compete,” said Anna Benton, student rower and senior chemical engineering major.

Isabelle Blanchard, senior captain and operations major, agreed: “The donations we receive not only provide us with physical items like ergs [training equipment] and racing shells, they also provide an opportunity for young women to take part in something that will truly change their lives.”

man with glasses in a blue striped shirt
Jim Marten ’81 supports student-athletes, including those on the women's rowing team.

Marten’s motivation to donate also has a personal connection.

His cousin, Bernadette Marten Teeley ’00, is one of Dayton’s most famous female rowers.

“She was part of the inaugural team, when Dayton launched a female rowing program in the late ’90s,” Marten said. “She went on to the national team where she won a world championship. Her success put women’s rowing on the map for Dayton.”

Marten is no stranger to the rowing community. His interest began when he took a rowing class with the Greater Dayton Rowing Association on the Great Miami River.

Every time the team receives a donation, student rowers express their gratitude to the donor.

“I like the touch of the team sending a personally signed thank-you card,” Marten said.

While the UD women’s rowing team holds a special place in his heart, Marten says all UD sports deserve support: “If someone has a personal preference for a particular sport, I definitely recommend they support it.”

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