Lowrey persists with coxswain's spirit
Feb. 18, 2010
Natalie England, TexasSports.com
AUSTIN, Texas -- As a coxswain for the Texas Rowing team, Colby Lowrey did most of her work in her head. Sure, she was in the boat -- steering, calling, motivating -- but all the while, she was thinking.
“Coxswains are always evaluating, always looking ahead, always multi-tasking,” head coach Carie Graves says. “And Colby was really, really good.”
And now, because of the same strengths that made Lowrey a good coxswain -- her ability to anticipate, maneuver and plan -- she’s no longer one. In late November, Lowrey’s mother, Janis Mezzell, passed away from liver failure, and in January, Lowrey informed Graves that she was leaving the Longhorns.
“I’ve never had a father figure in my life. I have no siblings. There’s no one else,” Lowrey says. “I needed to make sure I wasn’t just OK for right now. I have to make sure I have a nest egg when I get out of college, in case something falls through, because I don’t have a home to go to. I have to look out for myself right now.”
Lowrey was a standout high school student-athlete in Bruceville, Texas, just outside of Waco. She graduated valedictorian and competed in everything except FFA. She earned an academic scholarship to UT, and walked onto the rowing team as a freshman three years ago.
With an 18-hour course load, a job as a lifeguard at the Gregory Pool and an internship with Capital Metro, Lowrey had to make the decision to give up what she loved -- being part of a team.
“The reality is that even though she has a scholarship, and everything’s paid for, life’s expenses aren’t paid for, and all those other costs,” Graves says. “For scholarship student-athletes, there are always things parents still provide. Colby doesn’t have that now. She has to cover herself.”
Lowrey is an accomplished student in the McCombs School of Business, and she pursued and landed an internship with Target this summer, where she will work in distribution logistics.
“Literally from the first day here, my identity has been UT rower. My identity has been UT student-athlete. Giving that up has been really, really hard,” Lowrey says. “But after everything with my mom, my priorities completely changed.”
Lowrey made her own reputation among her rowers, because she often did erg workouts with them, which is unusual for coxswains. And Lowrey’s mother took great joy in that connection as well, always cheering on the pedestrian bridge during regattas on Lady Bird Lake, where the Longhorns will once again race in this weekend’s Fighting Nutria.
It will be difficult for Lowrey this Saturday in particular, the first one that won’t allow her to be on the water with the Longhorns. But her coxswain’s spirit remains.
“Colby will always be a Texas team member, even without competing. Her faith, strength and resilience are remarkable. We all have derived so much from knowing Colby,” UT Women’s Athletics Director Chris Plonsky says. “She gives us a compelling, poignant lesson about how intercollegiate athletics -- the combination of academics, sports and bonding with others in a common cause -- can pay dividends. Colby is managing life’s challenges with intellect, grace, dignity and toughness. The coxswain in her will serve her well in her professional life. Her future employer or employers will be fortunate.”