Their sweat shirts proclaimed "JUST CREW IT." Their face glowed with high spirits and health.
Seven members of the Johns Hopkins rowing crew stood in a field by Marley Creek early yesterday while Megan Hutcheson, their coxswain, pinned their blue shorts tight about their knees.
"You aren't going to poke me, are you?" begged one. "This is just so stylish," sighed another, eyeing his knobby knees.
They were getting ready for the Novice 8 race in the Ariel Head of the Patapsco, Glen Burnie's first rowing regatta.
Ms. Hutcheson was pinning shorts so the fabric wouldn't get caught on the rolling slides that hold the seats in the boat. "If you get your shorts caught, they kill you in a race," said Jon Last, a freshman biology major.
More than 25 clubs and colleges came to the regatta, sponsored by the Baltimore Rowing Club and held at the Country Club Estates Recreation Association on Marley Creek.
The talk was of hazards and hairpin turns, bow balls and power strokes. And hard work.
The participants had plenty to say about the effort they'd put into being there.
"We wake up at 4:30 every morning to go out on the water," said Jennifer Hozik, 19, a member of the crew from Washington College in Chestertown.
"We practiced in yesterday's thunderstorms," said a Hopkins rower. "That's the dedication we have."
The rowers prepped for the race with almost constant exercise, said Ms. Hozik, and by eating breads and bananas for carbohydrates and potassium. Now they were set for the three-mile races that began in Furnace Creek and looped around into Marley Creek.
The sun was out and hot by 9 a.m., as the first crews slid their boats into Marley Creek to row to the starting point. On the terraces around the launching area, dozens of friends and relatives joined several golden retrievers to watch the day's 10 races.
The Hopkins crew carried its boat into the water, then climbed in, one member at a time, one leg at a time, to keep the boat balanced.
Ms. Hutcheson, as coxswain -- the one who sits in the stern of the boat to steer -- was equipped with a water bottle and a "cox-box," or a microphone connected to speakers throughout the boat so she could issue instructions and encourage the rowers.
"It's addictive," said Mr. Last. "Once you start rowing, you don't want to stop. You get a rush when you're feeling the run of the boat."
A hundred feet away, Joe Dobson, the Annapolis Rowing Club's coach, hollered "Let's go, studs!" at his crew as it pulled away from the bank. "I expect to see you overtaking boats!"
The crew, with four high school sophomores, two juniors and two seniors, is the only junior rowing program in the state and the only rowing program for high school students in Anne Arundel County.
"Long and strong, Annapolis, long and strong!" Mr. Dobson barked.
Waiting near the finish line was Nina Lord, watching for her son, Stephen, a member of the Annapolis club. She joined a rowing club after Stephen began rowing. "It's a lot of hard work, but it's a real good workout," she said.
As crews from Loyola and Stockton, the New Jersey state college, launched their boats, other crews sprawled on the dock waiting for later races.
"The aesthetics drew me first," said Kaira Kroblin, a first-year student at Washington College. "It looked very pretty. But you find out it's a real power sport, you use everything. Physically, you have to be in shape, but a lot comes from your mental attitude. You have to believe you can do it."
That strategy didn't help Hopkins. An hour later, its crew lost the race after an oar broke. But, said Todd Ries, 19, "It's a good accomplishment to complete a course. We rowed as well as we could."
The crew then headed for home, groaning about sore hands, legs and arms.
Mr. Ries had one wish: "Sleep! And a good massage wouldn't hurt."