On Friday, February 18, the usually subdued Smith Union erupted with cheers, music and joy. Students gathered in Smith Union donning unitards and headbands, ready to participate in the College’s third annual Henry Zietlow Ergathon.
Zietlow was tragically killed in a car accident in January 2019, over winter break of his first year at Bowdoin. He would have graduated Bowdoin this spring.
“Henry was one of those people that just stood out from the get-go,” said Head Coach Doug Welling.
Despite only having one semester and crew season with the Bowdoin community, Zietlow made a lasting impact on everyone his life touched.
“He was here for a pretty short time, but he had a very large impact on our team and me personally,” Ben Ross ’22 said.
While this was the third annual ergathon, it is the second time the event looked like it did last Friday. The event was much smaller last spring due to the ongoing pandemic and was held outside on the quad. This year, however, the crew team, along with peers and members of Bowdoin athletics, packed Morrell Lounge with energetic enthusiasm yet again.
“The thought of Henry invokes a lot of extreme sadness and the loss of him, but at the same time, just a tremendous amount of joy and ultimate positivity. And we really wanted [this] to be a celebration of his life,” Welling said.
Despite the impending graduation of the last class of students who knew Zietlow personally, Assistant Coach Ry Hills is sure his legacy will live on.
“This year’s first year class on the team came away from the ergathon with just an additional amount of spirit and enthusiasm and huge sort of Henry-like smiles. And that’s the part of Henry that this event can carry forward … it’s just, it’s contagious. That spirit is contagious,” Hills said.
This was Nick Werner’s ’24 first time at the ergathon, and he is already looking forward to the next.
“It’s something that really everyone on Bowdoin’s campus can take part in, and that’s something that’s really unique,” Werner said. “It’s something that’s really meaningful to the team, and I think it can be really meaningful to the community as well. And next year, I’m going to be really invested in getting as many people as I know to do it.”
The event’s organizers encourage anyone to join in the celebration. Welling explained that erging works so well because of how quickly anyone, even non-rowers, can pick it up. Ross agrees and hopes that people will go in the future even if they didn’t go this year.
“I’d say go next year. If you’re scared, don’t be— it’s more of a dance party than it is erging. It’s a really cool way to come together with everyone. Encourage people to go. It’s a ton of fun to try new things and meet new people,” Ross said.
Zietlow’s legacy, and the joy of his memorial event have begun to spread even beyond Bowdoin. This past Friday, as Bowdoin students were participating in their ergathon, rowers on Ithaca College’s men’s team rowed the same marathon to honor Zietlow simultaneously. The Ithaca team heard about it through a sibling at Bowdoin College.
In addition to the annual ergathon men’s crew has Zietlow’s initials on their uniforms, a boat donated and named in his honor and sweatbands that include his silhouette and nickname: “freespeed.”
Editor’s note 03/3/2022 at 1:45 p.m. EDT: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Henry Zietlow ’22 passed away in December 2018. He passed away in January 2019.