5 years of commitment earns 4 more

After being a member of the school’s crew team since 2016, Peyton Fern will continue the sport on a Division III rowing team


Courtesy of Peyton Fern

Peyton Fern and the crew team

Boats pull out onto the Potomac River in early spring as rowers begin their workout. Despite a harsh chill on the water, the athletes enjoy a mental break as well as time with friends. This team is the school’s crew team, and for the past five years one of their members has been senior Peyton Fern. After being encouraged by her mom to start the sport in the eighth grade, Fern has risen from a “novice,” the newest rowers, to varsity. While she will say goodbye to the school’s team this year, Fern will continue the sport on Wesleyan University’s Division III rowing team next fall.s

“[In eighth grade,] I went to one of [the crew team’s] green days, and then I went to their winter conditioning,” Fern said. “I was like, ‘I can really see myself doing this,’ and it was all the same since.”

Despite a long history with the sport, it was not until her junior year that Fern began considering a future with the sport past high school. That season, Fern dropped 30 seconds off her 2000 meter erg test. Most rowers hope to drop between five and ten. 

“The 2019-2020 season was simply the season that I worked the hardest, showed up to practices the most and just gave it my all,” Fern said. “I was able to drop my times down for stuff really rapidly.”

With an increased interest in the sport, Fern rowed for the Potomac Boat Club in the fall of her junior year, crew’s off season. She switched clubs this year due to COVID-19 and found that variations in the types of races during those seasons helped her improve. 

“Once I was able to take the strength that I garnered my three previous years of rowing and take it with the endurance part, that was where I grew the most for sure, in that club setting,” Fern said.

While improved times are making a big impact on her future, what sticks out more to Fern about rowing are the relationships, as well as mental benefits.

“It’s grounded me more emotionally, having a better idea of why I feel this way and what caused it, just being more mentally aware,” Fern said. “Crew has definitely taught me what it means to work hard and show up every day and give it your all.”

Now, Fern is preparing for her start at Wesleyan. For those that know her, this may come as a surprise. Up until this year, she had been set on William and Mary, never having heard of Wesleyan until she filled out the sports recruitment form.

“[The assistant coach at Wesleyan and I] had a phone call, we just talked and I told her about my season,” Fern said. “At the very end the coach was like, “Oh yeah, we can definitely see you on our team, we can definitely have you,” and me and my dad looked at each other and were like, “What?!” That just turned everything on its head.”

Ultimately, Fern applied to Wesleyan early decision. When applying, the Wesleyan crew coaches helped by adding her name to a list of recommendations for the dean. Something else important to Fern was the difference between a less intense Division III school, like Wesleyan, and a Division I or II school. This will allow Fern to pursue a film major on top of crew team commitments.

“I wanted to be a college student at the end of the day, not a college athlete,” Fern said.

As Fern moves on from the Washington-Liberty crew team, it is clear to her what an impact a decision she made in eighth grade, and the people she met because of it, had on her life.

“Thank you to my other team members and coaches for getting me here today,” Fern said. “I’m excited to see what’s next.”