SCITUATE — A cousin rowed for Dartmouth College, and two others pulled oars at the US Naval Academy.
“They’d come over and show me their blisters and say, ‘This is the coolest sport ever,’ ” recalled Emma Taylor.
That was the selling point? Painful, unsightly blisters?
“It wasn’t,” she said. “There were blisters all over their hands. I was not into it, but I was told it did well for them. They loved it so much and I could see they loved it.”
It did not sound like the greatest endorsement, but Taylor eventually bought in. It turns out it was one of her best buys ever.
That was five years ago.
The Scituate teen joined the crew team as a freshman at Thayer Academy in Braintree, became a two-time team MVP, and cocaptained the squad as a senior, graduating cum laude.
Last season, as a freshman on the crew team at Bates College, she was selected as the program’s top first-year rower by the coaching staff.
The 5-foot-8 oarswoman was a positive factor as the Bobcats finished second — for the fifth straight spring — to NESCAC rival Williams College at the NCAA Division 3 championship regatta June 1 in Indianapolis.
Earlier, with Taylor in the three seat, Bates’s second varsity 8 boat placed second at the New England Championship on Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester.
On the eve of her sophomore year in Lewiston, Maine, the 19-year-old Taylor is hooked on the sport.
What is the attraction?
“Racing. And that feeling you get after a race in which you’ve done well,” she said.
“You’ve given 110 percent and you get that euphoria from doing well, that you came out on top. Even if you just did well [and didn’t win], it’s a great feeling.
“I can’t imagine what I’d be doing if I were not rowing. It’s such a big part of who I am. I played soccer for a long time,” as a youth in Scituate, and as a goalie all four years at Thayer, “but I was never as passionate about soccer as I am about rowing.”
Taylor said it takes “a certain type” to row.
John Cotter, her coach at Thayer, agreed, noting that “rowers are much more low key [than other athletes],” he said.
“They’re intense in terms of competition — they’ve got determination and a strong work ethic — but they’re not loud. No Charles Barkleys are rowing. Emma’s personality lent itself to the rowing dynamic. She has an even temperament, she’s a hard worker and very group-oriented. She was able to transfer her strength and energy into boat speed. I’m not surprised she’s competing at the collegiate level.”
Bates has qualified via the regionals for the NCAAs for seven consecutive years, but Williams has been a roadblock the last five.
Who will stop the reign? Taylor vowed to do her part in putting Bates on the victory stand.
“It will happen,” said Taylor, who prepared for the 2013-14 season by working this summer as a rowing instructor at Cohasset Maritime Institute.
Before her initial visit, she told Bates coach Peter Steenstra, “ ‘You’re going to want me on the team because we’re going to beat Williams.’ He said, ‘That’s a lot of cheek.’ And I said, ‘It’s a promise I intend to keep.’ ”
Steenstra said that when Taylor sits in the boat, she knows “it’s time to be quiet and get down to work.”
“But as soon as we hit the dock, she hops up and her smile turns right back on. Although she’s physically exhausted then, she continues to be a positive ball of energy: happy, smiley, and bubbly.”
The path to the 2014 NCAAs begins with the fall season, which this year features only two events: the legendary Head of the Charles Regatta Oct. 19 and 20 in Boston and Cambridge, and the CBB Chase (for Maine archrivals Colby, Bates, and Bowdoin), technically a scrimmage, Oct. 26 at Waterville.
The spring schedule will be busy and include the President’s Cup contested by the CBB colleges, the New England Regionals, ECAC National Invitational, and NCAAs.
As for those nasty blisters, Taylor will probably be free of them for the foreseeable future.
“When you’re new to rowing, your hands get ripped up as if they’re in a cheese grater. Blisters,” she said. “When you’ve rowed awhile, you get calluses and then fewer and fewer blisters form.”
Now that is a selling point.