College athlete has sights set on bigger waters

By: Art Garcia, Telegraph Correspondent
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Lindsay Meltz not only has to maintain good grades to remain a student at the University of California, Berkeley. The 18-year-old freshman from El Dorado Hills also must keep her weight at 110 pounds to remain a coxswain on the women’s varsity crew team. Small in size but big in determination, Meltz is an Oak Ridge High School graduate who crewed locally for four years before enrolling at Cal and winning a spot on its highly successful Pacific-12 Conference crew team. Last year, it won its fourth consecutive conference crew championship and has won seven in the past eight years. Before heading for the Cal campus, Meltz was a member for three years of Capital Crew while at Oak Ridge then in her senior year joined a new team, the Upper Natoma Rowing Club. Both teams rowed at Folsom’s Lake Natoma. As coxswain, the wispy Meltz is the only woman facing forward and the only one without an oar. Her job is to steer the boat, factoring in the wind, tides and the stroking rhythm of her crew. “It’s not physically demanding, it’s mental,” she said of strategizing and motivating the eight rowers in the 60-foot long, slim boat she helms in what are 2,000-meter sprints and 5,000-meter races. “As a coxswain, you’re basically the eyes and brains of the boat,” said Meltz. “You tell the crew where the boat is in the race, how many meters to the finish and you make technical calls — shift the stroke rate, tell the crew where it is in relation to other crews.” Meltz is carrying 13 units at Cal but hasn’t yet chosen a major. She’d like to be an elementary school teacher after earning her degree. She received no scholarship for crew but hopes to land one in her sophomore year. While meeting the academic demands of Cal, Meltz said she’s also learned about time commitments from crew. The team’s day begins with two hours of practice at 6:30 a.m., followed by weight training in the afternoon. In all, the team works out 20 hours a week. At 5 feet, 2 inches, Meltz said she has no problem sticking to the 110-pound coxswain’s weight limit. The collegiate crew season lasts from fall through spring. “Essentially, it’s year round. You’re always in the water,” she said. Being a freshman on the varsity women’s crew team “is not unusual, but it doesn’t happen all the time,” she said. “It’s a privilege to be on the varsity team.” Part of the crew recruiting process involves submitting tape recordings of the coxswain’s calls. “Once they hear your recordings, they decide whether they want to recruit you or not,” Meltz explained. The 2012 women’s Pac-12 crew championship competition will be held in May at Lake Natoma. The National Collegiate Athletic Association championship will be in June on the East Coast. Only three women’s boats from Cal can compete. “My goal is to make it on an NCAA boat,” said Meltz. “If you’re the best coxswain, you’re going to be on the best boat.” Meltz is the daughter of chiropractor Dr. Lewis and Kathleen Meltz of El Dorado Hills. Lindsay has three sisters, two of whom have been or are involved in crew: Larissa, 26, a former rower at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, and Sarah, 16, a junior at Oak Ridge who rows for the Upper Natoma Rowing Club. Stacey, 23, did not row and now is teaching preschool at a U.S. Army base in Germany.