One challenge that the Georgetown club boxing team routinely faces is the task of retaining members who can commit to the sport from one year to the next.
The yearly turnover is not wholly unexpected. Many students tepidly walk into a club boxing meeting or practice their freshman year with no previous boxing experience. They start by coming to practice four times a week and engaging in demanding exercises that can leave their participants exhausted. But as fall turns to spring and the years roll by, members fall by the wayside as their priorities shift.
“These aren’t athletes that are on scholarship — they are competing for a love of the sport or to challenge themselves,” Georgetown Club Boxing Head Coach John Garry said. “You never know who’s going to come back out year after year.”
However, some members stick it out, and for one senior, that effort has paid off in an unprecedented way.
On March 18, Sinead Schenk (COL ’17) competed in and won a match in the Washington, D.C., Golden Gloves Tournament. The victory earned Schenk and the Georgetown’s club boxing team its first D.C. Golden Gloves championship title and marked a significant milestone for the growing number of women on the team.
Schenk competed against Nerissa Turner of the Elite Boxing Gym at the 132-pound novice division, an intermediate level open to boxers with fewer than 10 bouts. While Schenk is accustomed to competing at a higher division for boxers with over 10 bouts, this time around she faced another challenge — she was punching above her weight, literally.
“She won the title in a weight class above her natural weight at 132 instead of 125,” said Garry. “She’s exceptionally strong and exceptionally powerful. On top of that, she’s very technically sound, so I had very little in the way of concern on her not being able to handle the competition.”
The victory came after Schenk engaged in a grueling training schedule to prepare for the competition. In addition to regular boxing practice, Schenk ran five times a week, intensified her conditioning workouts and even found a trainer to work with during her breaks at home in New York.
“I’m pretty proud of it. I worked really hard,” Schenk said. “But it’s really cool because I never thought I’d be a boxer. When I left Golden Gloves, [I asked my dad], ‘Did you ever imagine having a daughter who’d go to Golden Gloves, who’d be a Golden Gloves winner?’ and he was like, ‘Nope, never thought of that.’”
While the victory was a landmark moment in its own right, for the team, Schenk’s victory served as a concrete representation of the growing presence of women in the club. Schenk’s Golden Gloves match took place one week before the club boxing team sent a team of 12 competitors to the 2017 United States Intercollegiate Boxing Association (USIBA) National Championships. Six of the 12 fighters for Georgetown were women.
“Out of all the schools that were there, we had the most number of females compared to males,” Garry said.
To its disappointment, Georgetown returned to the Hilltop without any belts from this year’s national championships in Lexington, Va., on March 23-25. Nevertheless, the experience provided several members of the team their first taste of national competition and established the growing role of women on the team in the future.
“It felt really good to see so many girls, especially because boxing is not stereotypically a sport where there’s more girls than guys,” Theresa Romualdez (COL ’19), one of the fighters who competed at Nationals this year said. “It was nice having that kind of support.”
Schenk’s role as one of the two female co-captains of the team alongside Janie Rosales (COL ’17) heightened the significance of her feat. Garry, who joined Georgetown when Schenk and Rosales were freshmen, praised both Schenk’s and Rosales’ growth as leaders and boxers on the team.
“It’s been great to work with them over four years, from seeing them as precocious freshmen, eyes wide open as we go to boxing tournaments and all of that, to the very experienced leaders that they are,” Garry said. “It’s been a privilege for me to be able to watch that transformation.”
Schenk and Rosales will leave a lasting impression on younger members as well.
“I saw them as role models; [they made me think], ‘This is where I can be in a few years,’” Romualdez said. “They’re at pretty much all the practices, they set the precedent and they’re also a lot more experienced.”
With their four years at Georgetown coming to a close, Schenk and Rosales look proudly on their time on club boxing and the changes that the team has undergone since they started.
“When I first joined, there was only one other girl on the team,” Rosales said. “So Sinead and I, who’s my co-captain now, we joined, and it was kind of just the three of us and it was really hard for us to gain any sort of recognition in the beginning. But we stuck it out and now we have maybe even more women than men compete. It’s become a normal thing.”
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