Xu captains men’s crew team

When she first joined her high school crew team sophomore year, Sylvia Xu ’16 never imagined she would continue crew in college, let alone be named a captain for the men’s team at Colby. Her career as a coxswain (the team member who sits in front and dictates the boat), began after Xu suffered a knee injury from gymnastics. Xu knew she still wanted to compete as part of a team, and serving as the coxswain for her high school crew team enabled her to continue a sport, despite her injury.

Xu’s decision to join crew at Colby helped her through the often tough transition from high school to college. “I had a lot going on in my personal life,” she explained, “so I walked on the rowing team freshman year because I knew it was something I was passionate about and could excel in.”

Her freshman year, only the men’s team was in need of a coxswain. Xu decided to join. The idea of being a coxswain on the men’s team did not intimidate Xu in the slightest: “I had experience coxing with women and men through high school so I was comfortable being a part of a predominately male team,” Xu said. For its part, the team has always treated Xu as an equal member of the team. “I’m truly an equal as a teammate and peer in every way,” she said.

Xu’s passion for the sport has led her to excel and helped her to earn the title of captain. “I’m proud of going from a timid freshman in a mostly upperclassmen boat to a leader on the team who was able to earn their respect,” Xu said.

Recognizing Xu’s commitment and leadership qualities, the team voted her one of the captains this year. “I’m proud and honored to have been voted one of the men’s team’s captains. It was a huge compliment to me to be chosen by the guys [as] a female leader of the team,” she said.

For Xu, crew has been an invaluable part of her Colby experience, and she is grateful for the opportunity to serve as a leader. “I’ve had a great time being on this team. There’s no other sport where it would be possible for a female to have leadership on a male team,” Xu said. Clearly, being a woman on a men’s team hasn’t stopped Xu from succeeding and won’t do so anytime soon: “I find that being a woman on a men’s team is no different than being on any other sports team: we’re all just out there to be competitive and make boats go fast.”

Xu is looking forward to the upcoming season and stepping into her leadership role: “I’m really happy with all of the hard work [the team] has put in during my time at Colby, and I’m really excited to start this season leading them.”

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