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Smith College crew bonds over rowing in Connecticut River

  • Chloe Jones, right, Helen Smith, left, and Sarah McDonald, background, carry oars back to the boat house following an early morning practice on the Connecticut River last week.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Chloe Jones, right, Helen Smith, left, and Sarah McDonald, background, carry oars back to the boat house following an early morning practice on the Connecticut River last week.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • The 70+ members of the Smith College crew do warm-up exercises in the rain by the single light of the boat house at Sportsman's Marina in Hadley.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    The 70+ members of the Smith College crew do warm-up exercises in the rain by the single light of the boat house at Sportsman's Marina in Hadley.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Smith College senior Jane Turner and crew hoist the eight-seat shell Olivia's Run out of the Connecticut River at Sportsman's Marina in Hadley after a two-hour early morning practice last week.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Smith College senior Jane Turner and crew hoist the eight-seat shell Olivia's Run out of the Connecticut River at Sportsman's Marina in Hadley after a two-hour early morning practice last week.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Smith College crew head coach Karen Klinger, an 1987 Smith alumna, preps her teams before they put in to the Connecticut River for a two-hour practice, most of it in the dark.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Smith College crew head coach Karen Klinger, an 1987 Smith alumna, preps her teams before they put in to the Connecticut River for a two-hour practice, most of it in the dark.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Crew members get in some studying outside John M. Green Hall before leaving for the morning practice in Hadley. Athletes are asked to run the distance to Hadley twice a week as part of their conditioning, but on other days ride the van shuttle.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Crew members get in some studying outside John M. Green Hall before leaving for the morning practice in Hadley. Athletes are asked to run the distance to Hadley twice a week as part of their conditioning, but on other days ride the van shuttle.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • From left, Hannah Kaplan-Hartlaub, Sarah McDonald, Piper Hayden and Helen Smith hoist the bow end of the 8-seat shell Feroce from the Connecticut River after an early morning practice last week.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    From left, Hannah Kaplan-Hartlaub, Sarah McDonald, Piper Hayden and Helen Smith hoist the bow end of the 8-seat shell Feroce from the Connecticut River after an early morning practice last week.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • In pitch blackness - save for some starlight and the warm glow of the Coolidge Bridge lights - the Smith College crew puts in just before 6 a.m. for a practice on the Connecticut River last week.

    In pitch blackness - save for some starlight and the warm glow of the Coolidge Bridge lights - the Smith College crew puts in just before 6 a.m. for a practice on the Connecticut River last week. Purchase photo reprints »

  • From her launch Smith College crew head coach Karen Klinger directs two varsity shells in a pre-dawn practice on the Connecticut River.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    From her launch Smith College crew head coach Karen Klinger directs two varsity shells in a pre-dawn practice on the Connecticut River.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Coxswain Tara Stark, back to camera, commands an eight-seat shell powered by, from right, Shelby Richards, Emma Kimata, Sarah McDonald, Piper Hayden, Helen Smith, Hannah Kaplan-Hartlaub (obscured), Chloe Jones and Abbie Milewski. <br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Coxswain Tara Stark, back to camera, commands an eight-seat shell powered by, from right, Shelby Richards, Emma Kimata, Sarah McDonald, Piper Hayden, Helen Smith, Hannah Kaplan-Hartlaub (obscured), Chloe Jones and Abbie Milewski.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • The 70+ members of the Smith College crew do warm-up exercises in the rain by the single light of the boat house at Sportsman's Marina in Hadley.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    The 70+ members of the Smith College crew do warm-up exercises in the rain by the single light of the boat house at Sportsman's Marina in Hadley.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Smith College senior Jane Turner and crew hoist the eight-seat shell Olivia's Run out of the Connecticut River at Sportsman's Marina in Hadley after a two-hour early morning practice last week.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Smith College senior Jane Turner and crew hoist the eight-seat shell Olivia's Run out of the Connecticut River at Sportsman's Marina in Hadley after a two-hour early morning practice last week.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Smith College crew head coach Karen Klinger, an 1987 Smith alumna, preps her teams before they put in to the Connecticut River for a two-hour practice, most of it in the dark.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Smith College crew head coach Karen Klinger, an 1987 Smith alumna, preps her teams before they put in to the Connecticut River for a two-hour practice, most of it in the dark.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Crew members get in some studying outside John M. Green Hall before leaving for the morning practice in Hadley. Athletes are asked to run the distance to Hadley twice a week as part of their conditioning, but on other days ride the van shuttle.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Crew members get in some studying outside John M. Green Hall before leaving for the morning practice in Hadley. Athletes are asked to run the distance to Hadley twice a week as part of their conditioning, but on other days ride the van shuttle.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • From left, Hannah Kaplan-Hartlaub, Sarah McDonald, Piper Hayden and Helen Smith hoist the bow end of the 8-seat shell Feroce from the Connecticut River after an early morning practice last week.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    From left, Hannah Kaplan-Hartlaub, Sarah McDonald, Piper Hayden and Helen Smith hoist the bow end of the 8-seat shell Feroce from the Connecticut River after an early morning practice last week.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • In pitch blackness - save for some starlight and the warm glow of the Coolidge Bridge lights - the Smith College crew puts in just before 6 a.m. for a practice on the Connecticut River last week.

    In pitch blackness - save for some starlight and the warm glow of the Coolidge Bridge lights - the Smith College crew puts in just before 6 a.m. for a practice on the Connecticut River last week. Purchase photo reprints »

  • From her launch Smith College crew head coach Karen Klinger directs two varsity shells in a pre-dawn practice on the Connecticut River.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    From her launch Smith College crew head coach Karen Klinger directs two varsity shells in a pre-dawn practice on the Connecticut River.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Coxswain Tara Stark, back to camera, commands an eight-seat shell powered by, from right, Shelby Richards, Emma Kimata, Sarah McDonald, Piper Hayden, Helen Smith, Hannah Kaplan-Hartlaub (obscured), Chloe Jones and Abbie Milewski. <br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Coxswain Tara Stark, back to camera, commands an eight-seat shell powered by, from right, Shelby Richards, Emma Kimata, Sarah McDonald, Piper Hayden, Helen Smith, Hannah Kaplan-Hartlaub (obscured), Chloe Jones and Abbie Milewski.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • From her launch Smith College crew head coach Karen Klinger directs two varsity shells in a pre-dawn practice on the Connecticut River.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    From her launch Smith College crew head coach Karen Klinger directs two varsity shells in a pre-dawn practice on the Connecticut River.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Coxswain Tara Stark, back to camera, commands an eight-seat shell powered by, from right, Shelby Richards, Emma Kimata, Sarah McDonald, Piper Hayden, Helen Smith, Hannah Kaplan-Hartlaub (obscured), Chloe Jones and Abbie Milewski. <br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Coxswain Tara Stark, back to camera, commands an eight-seat shell powered by, from right, Shelby Richards, Emma Kimata, Sarah McDonald, Piper Hayden, Helen Smith, Hannah Kaplan-Hartlaub (obscured), Chloe Jones and Abbie Milewski.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Chloe Jones, right, Helen Smith, left, and Sarah McDonald, background, carry oars back to the boat house following an early morning practice on the Connecticut River last week.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • The 70+ members of the Smith College crew do warm-up exercises in the rain by the single light of the boat house at Sportsman's Marina in Hadley.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Smith College senior Jane Turner and crew hoist the eight-seat shell Olivia's Run out of the Connecticut River at Sportsman's Marina in Hadley after a two-hour early morning practice last week.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Smith College crew head coach Karen Klinger, an 1987 Smith alumna, preps her teams before they put in to the Connecticut River for a two-hour practice, most of it in the dark.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Crew members get in some studying outside John M. Green Hall before leaving for the morning practice in Hadley. Athletes are asked to run the distance to Hadley twice a week as part of their conditioning, but on other days ride the van shuttle.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • From left, Hannah Kaplan-Hartlaub, Sarah McDonald, Piper Hayden and Helen Smith hoist the bow end of the 8-seat shell Feroce from the Connecticut River after an early morning practice last week.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • In pitch blackness - save for some starlight and the warm glow of the Coolidge Bridge lights - the Smith College crew puts in just before 6 a.m. for a practice on the Connecticut River last week.
  • From her launch Smith College crew head coach Karen Klinger directs two varsity shells in a pre-dawn practice on the Connecticut River.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Coxswain Tara Stark, back to camera, commands an eight-seat shell powered by, from right, Shelby Richards, Emma Kimata, Sarah McDonald, Piper Hayden, Helen Smith, Hannah Kaplan-Hartlaub (obscured), Chloe Jones and Abbie Milewski. <br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • The 70+ members of the Smith College crew do warm-up exercises in the rain by the single light of the boat house at Sportsman's Marina in Hadley.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Smith College senior Jane Turner and crew hoist the eight-seat shell Olivia's Run out of the Connecticut River at Sportsman's Marina in Hadley after a two-hour early morning practice last week.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Smith College crew head coach Karen Klinger, an 1987 Smith alumna, preps her teams before they put in to the Connecticut River for a two-hour practice, most of it in the dark.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Crew members get in some studying outside John M. Green Hall before leaving for the morning practice in Hadley. Athletes are asked to run the distance to Hadley twice a week as part of their conditioning, but on other days ride the van shuttle.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • From left, Hannah Kaplan-Hartlaub, Sarah McDonald, Piper Hayden and Helen Smith hoist the bow end of the 8-seat shell Feroce from the Connecticut River after an early morning practice last week.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • In pitch blackness - save for some starlight and the warm glow of the Coolidge Bridge lights - the Smith College crew puts in just before 6 a.m. for a practice on the Connecticut River last week.
  • From her launch Smith College crew head coach Karen Klinger directs two varsity shells in a pre-dawn practice on the Connecticut River.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Coxswain Tara Stark, back to camera, commands an eight-seat shell powered by, from right, Shelby Richards, Emma Kimata, Sarah McDonald, Piper Hayden, Helen Smith, Hannah Kaplan-Hartlaub (obscured), Chloe Jones and Abbie Milewski. <br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • From her launch Smith College crew head coach Karen Klinger directs two varsity shells in a pre-dawn practice on the Connecticut River.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Coxswain Tara Stark, back to camera, commands an eight-seat shell powered by, from right, Shelby Richards, Emma Kimata, Sarah McDonald, Piper Hayden, Helen Smith, Hannah Kaplan-Hartlaub (obscured), Chloe Jones and Abbie Milewski. <br/>KEVIN GUTTING

If you pass over the Coolidge Bridge in the pre-dawn hours of any fall weekday morning, it is easy to miss the tiny red and green lights marking the bows of six shells plying the calm waters of the Connecticut River.

The Smith College crew, coached by Smith alumna Karen Klinger, arrives for the start of practice at the Sportsman’s Marina in Hadley by 5:30 a.m., either by van or by running the three miles from the Northampton campus. The athletes — there are about 70 on the team — are not swayed by cold, rain or the increasing darkness as the season draws on.

After a brief warm up, they are on the water by 6 a.m. — long before the sunrise. Klinger, a gold medalist in the 1991 Pan Am games in Cuba, follows two of the varsity crews along the deeper west shoreline of the river, careful to direct them around floating debris or an occasional passing shell filled with athletes from the University of Massachusetts or Amherst or Mount Holyoke colleges.

Five days a week, like clockwork, after several miles up and down the river, Smith boats make their way back to the dock in time to put the shells away and jump into the vans waiting to whisk them back to their classes by 8 a.m. Klinger says the crews train in the mornings by choice, in large part so they can devote the rest of the day to academics.

With 29 years rowing and 15 as a head coach, Klinger, who graduated from Smith in 1987, has a love of the sport that dates back to her days as a student member of the Smith crew. As coach, she says every practice is full of learning and teaching moments.

“You wake up, come alive, feel strong,” she says, “along with people who have the same sense of work and purpose.”

Last Sunday Smith’s Varsity 8 team took part in the Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston, a warm-up for the Seven Sisters Regatta hosted this weekend by Simmons College, also in Boston. This collegiate regatta marks the close of the Pioneers’ fall season but the teams can look forward to the start of practice again in February — after the ice clears.

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