Honora Campbell rows for the Mountain Hawks after walking onto the team last year. Now, Campbell has one of the best erg scores on the team. (Courtesy of Lehigh Sports)

Honora Campbell thrives as women’s rowing walk-on

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Unlike the rest of her teammates on the rowing team, sophomore Honora Campbell was not a recruit. 

In August 2018, Campbell stepped onto campus for the first time as a student. Sophomore Tori Dorn, a recruited women’s rower, remembers the process of encouraging other students to try out. 

“When we got here, the rowing team gave us flyers to hand out to get students to try out,” Dorn said. “Honora (Campbell) was looking for a sport to play in college, and so she started the process.”

The walk-ons go through a tryout process where they get in the water and learn how to row, and the coaches then decide if they would be a good fit for the team.

With the help of her multi-sport background including lacrosse, basketball and volleyball at Calhoun High School on Long Island, New York, Campbell thrived during the walk-on process.

Dorn said from the start, Campbell was a standout. Dorn said Campbell’s height and strength gave her an immediate advantage.

“It was definitely hard in the beginning,” Campbell said. “It seemed like I was learning a new language almost. But, as I approached the sport with the mentality of putting in the time and doing my best, results would follow.”

In her early days, Campbell learned what an erg was a machine that mimics the rowing stroke of what it would be like in the water — and performed fitness tests with full body circuits. From there, she applied what she learned on the erg to the boat, Campbell said.

Now, Campbell has one of the best erg scores on the team. 

“We are on the ergs constantly and always doing workouts on them,” said assistant coach Julianna Malachin. “The standard test is the 2k test, or 2000 meter. You set up the erg for that distance and go as hard as you can, as fast as you can. The goal is to finish it as quickly as you can. We equate it to as a runner (doing) the mile test. Campbell’s overall personal record is in the top three of the team. She is definitely a competitor.”

Campbell doesn’t have a specific role on the team, but she leads by example and does her best with helping out the freshmen get up to speed, Malachin said. 

Malachin said Campbell brings a positive energy to the team, and her teammates can always rely on her. That spirit is also reflected in the art she creates outside of her athletic life. 

“She will come back from practice, go up to Mountaintop Campus and work on her projects until 2 (a.m.),” Dorn said. “The dedication in this girl is crazy.”

Like athletics, Campbell has also been interested in art from a young age. 

Sports allowed her to have a connection with her dad, who coached her, but art gave her a connection with her mom. Campbell’s mother is a high school art teacher who always encouraged her to have a side of her life where she can be expressive, Campbell said.

“I enjoy painting my friends because I feel it is more personal,” Campbell said. “It’s fun painting a quick moment that you remember that will always make you smile.”

Over winter break, Campbell found a way to combine her love for art and rowing. 

She bought a large canvas the easiest way to get all of her teammates into one painting to paint a picture of their sophomore boat. 

“For me, I like to be supportive, positive (and) upbeat,” Campbell said. “Practice is always more fun when you’re smiling and laughing, so I take every opportunity I can to be silly. Even when you’re working hard, sports should be fun, and I like to be there with my teammates having a great time.”

Campbell said rowing is now a part of her identity, and said she cannot imagine life at Lehigh without being a student-athlete.

Campbell and her teammates begin their spring season on March 14 at Loyola in Sykesville, Maryland.

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