Rowing with Chris Freeburg

Rowing with Chris Freeburg

By Chelsea Flintoft '14

A Snohomish, Wash. native, Chris Freeburg (CF) helped the Broncos place as the top WCC boat at the Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships last year. The senior will embark on his fourth year rowing here at Santa Clara and hopes to bring another trophy home to the Mission Campus before he graduates. In high school, Freeburg ran for four years on the cross-country and track teams but wanted a change when he came to college. Recently, the Biology and International Development major talked with (SCB) about his goals for his final season, favorite moments over the years and his hidden talent.

SCB: Coming off of a successful season last year, what do you hope to accomplish for this 2011 season?

CF: A successful season always brings added challenges the following year. Winning the WCC Championship was a great achievement for our program and something I'm very proud to have been a part of, but we envision it as a stepping-stone to future goals and hope to continue the upward trend. After our performance last year it's very easy to get comfortable but we know every other team will be working harder to gain speed. So we have to challenge ourselves further, train harder and set bigger goals. Everyone on the team is committed to finding that next level. 

We would love to set a high benchmark for ourselves at the San Diego Crew Classic early in the season so we can build off that performance and set ourselves up well for the WIRA (Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association) Championships in May. UC Davis remains our largest regional rival and it has been a number of years since we have beaten them, so they are definitely in our sight. And, obviously keeping the WCC Championship trophy at home is a big goal. It won't be an easy feat though as Gonzaga has a strong, talented team and will come back looking for vengeance. Part of our program's goals include fostering a solid novice team that has a successful year and is prepared for rowing at the Varsity level.  It is also exciting to see the building blocks of the future success of the women's program fall into place. WIRA Overall Team trophy would be a big deal for Santa Clara to bring that home in the future.  All that being said, we all want to have fun and just enjoy the ride.  We have eight seniors on the team this year and we have created a lot of memories over the years.  It's hard to accept that in a number of weeks our collegiate rowing careers will be over and we will be moving on to other things.

SCB: What are you focusing on personally to improve your overall performance?

CF: If you look at the top eight teams in the country (UW, Cal, etc.), it's easy to see I'm not built as large (5'11", 165 lbs.) as the typical heavyweight rower. So, I'm always focused on getting stronger, which means pushing myself harder on the oars, hitting the weights and gaining weight. Crew builds up a great appetite and I have always loved food, but I have tried to eat healthier and smarter so I can push myself into that next level of fitness and get more out of every workout. The other part of the equation is finding the most speed from our rowing technique. This is part of the larger focus of our team; we're smaller in size and power than most of our competition, so in order to beat other teams, we have to row better. This means extreme focus to detail in every water practice and a constant willingness to accept critique from our coxswains to improve.  They have to push us harder and we have to be ready for them to push us harder.

SCB: Outside of rowing, do you have any hidden talents?

CF: I wouldn't call it a talent, but I love the outdoors. I'm from Washington and there is a great outdoor playground that is not well known outside of the state. There are a number of large mountains in the Cascades with great multi-day climbs, some awesome scrambles (quicker, one-day summits involving some degree of technicality) and alpine ascents (where you approach the mountain on foot and summit via rock routes). In the winter everything gets covered in snow and opens a whole new world of snowshoe routes.  That's not to mention the Puget Sound and San Juans Islands, the great fishing and water sports among other pursuits.  I would say Washington is my hidden playground, not my hidden talent.

SCB: Now that you are a senior, what have been some of your favorite moments on crew?

CF: I think novice year usually holds a lot of fond memories for rowers because that is when you are just beginning to learn the sport and your competence at rowing accelerates so quickly. The best row I've ever had on the water was in my novice year, the evening before our WIRA grand final race. We set out with a beautiful sunset in the sky and rowed into twilight. Our coxswain even agreed to allow us stretch of silence (a real treat for a rower) as long as we didn't make any mistakes. We had this long stretch of perfect rowing on flat water, probably the best we had rowed technically all year. That next day's race was the last day that boat rowed together for Santa Clara. 

Winning the WCC Championship was a definite highlight of my rowing career because of the excitement of it all, the concrete feeling of accomplishment after working so hard to for that goal (which is rare in sports, especially in Crew where you train all year for only a handful of races), and the guys that came together to win it. That boat was rowed by a fast, talented group of guys, but they're also some of the best people I've met at Santa Clara. If anything, the community is the best part of Santa Clara Crew team. To have a dedicated group of people all so intently focused and committed to a single goal is so rare and so special to be a part of. The fact that everyone will wake themselves up at 5:30 am five mornings a week in the midst of their hectic lives is a great testament to that dedication. The fraternity extends well beyond training into the personal friendships, fun and camaraderie we share. 

This past Thanksgiving, the men's crew team had a giant feast and every guy made something to share. It was one of the best Thanksgiving meals I've ever had. Not only was the food great (we kept track of how may sticks of butter we used, I think it came up to something like 42! -which you can get away with on Crew...), but also the community there was even better. I'm grateful to have found such a good group of people to spend so much time with at Santa Clara.

SCB: What are your post-grad plans for the future?

CF: Next year I plan to volunteer with JVC (Jesuit Volunteer Corps) Northwest, most likely in Alaska or Oregon.  JVC NW involves a yearlong volunteer placement while living in an intentional community of other JVs (Jesuit Volunteers).  The values of JVC are: simple living, spirituality, social justice and community. In my next year I hope to do a bit of traveling and apply for medical school.