Rowing with Reason: ODU women's team honors fallen competitor

Posted at 11:22 PM, Feb 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-07 23:53:55-05

NORFOLK, Va. - The Old Dominion University women's rowing program is feeling the pain this weekend.

"Probably pretty sore," ODU head women's rowing coach Daniel Garbutt responded when asked how sore he will be Sunday. "A little exhausted," added ODU senior Madeline Doherty when asked how she was feeling.

Doherty and fellow members of the Old Dominion program, including Coach Garbutt, are rowing with reason.

"In spirit and in the honor of Grace Rett, we’re going to try and replicate her distance," Garbutt explained.

Grace Rett, a member of the rowing team at the College of the Holy Cross, died last month - one day after her 20th birthday. She was killed when a van carrying her and her Holy Cross teammates collided with a pick-up truck.

"It was heartbreaking," Doherty recalled. "Thinking of someone that loved something as much as we did and passed away trying to get to their winter training camp – something we just came home from."

Days before her death, Grace - who was also a mentor, tour guide and member of the Holy Cross campus ministry, established a distance world record for indoor rowing. Rett completed more than 62 hours of continuous rowing - covering a distance equivalent to 383,000 meters or 238 miles.

"There are strangers out here that are touched by her story," Garbutt said. "What she did is going to be remembered for a long time by us, for sure."

And to honor a stranger, ODU goes to something quite familiar. Beginning at 9:30 a.m. Friday and continuing non-stop until well into Saturday, Monarchs coaches, administrators and student-athletes - not just from the rowing team, either, will keep a single machine spinning until Grace's record of 383,000 meters is met.

"Honest respect for what she did," Garbutt explained. "It’s going to take an army of us to do what she did by herself. I’m really proud of the girls to show that kind of respect."

"This is such a monumental task, what she did," Doherty noted. "And we’re putting in this huge amount of work to try and even accomplish what she did. Hopefully it’s a sign of how much we care about this community."

The Monarchs will be sore. But it's a temporary pain to temporarily help the hurt felt by a fellow team in their rowing family.