Athlete of the Week: Jackson Hawkins ’21.5

Hawkins (left), one of the men’s crew captains, said he always knew he didn’t want to compete in Division I rowing, but has found a nice balance in club rowing at Middlebury.

Photo courtesy of Jackson Hawkins

Hawkins (left), one of the men’s crew captains, said he always knew he didn’t want to compete in Division I rowing, but has found a nice balance in club rowing at Middlebury.

By Niamh Carty

In his senior year of high school, Jackson Hawkins ’21.5 was at a crossroads in his athletic career. Introduced to rowing as a sophomore at Tabor Academy, Hawkins rowed competitively in high school, competing at the NEIRA championships for three consecutive years in the team’s first varsity boat. While Hawkins knew that he wanted to row in college, he was not sure he wanted the sport to define his college experience. 

Ultimately, Hawkins avoided the more competitive Division I programs and landed at Middlebury. Today, he is one of the captains of the men’s crew team. For most of his career, Hawkins sat in the stroke seat of the men’s first varsity boat — considered the most competitive position — setting the timing and pace for the rest of the crew. 

Hawkins said that club sports at Middlebury offer a great opportunity for students to stay active on campus without the pressure of varsity competition. Yet despite its status as a club sport, Middlebury crew has enjoyed success competing against varsity-level teams.

“I did not choose Midd exclusively for its rowing program, but it was a piece of it,” Hawkins said. “I also really enjoy being outside, hiking and skiing, and Middlebury offers excellent access to that. And on top of that I knew I wanted to major in environmental studies, and Middlebury has one of the oldest Environmental Science departments in the nation, which was a huge draw.

Jackson Hawkins ’21.5 (farthest right) competes with his boat in the Dad Vail Regatta on May 12, 2018. (Photo courtesy of Abbott LaPrade ’21)

Hawkins spoke to the team’s desire to achieve varsity status but recognized the college’s hesitation to make this change due to the sport’s expenses. A few of the crew team’s competitors also have club status, including Bowdoin and Amherst, but most are varsity, including Tufts and Hamilton. And while this can present some challenges, Hawkins acknowledged the benefits that come with remaining at the club level. 

“It’s both a blessing and a curse,” Hawkins said. “With varsity programs, you’re able to have more pull with admissions so you can recruit athletes who have rowed before and you generally get better funding. But with a club sport, it’s a lot easier to bring people into the sport who may not have been exposed to it before. It gives us a scrappy nature.”

Outside of crew, Hawkins’s love for the outdoors drives his attention to other activities on campus. He is the co-president of the Middlebury Free Heelers, the campus telemark and backcountry skiing club; a Middview trip leader; a ski instructor; and a member of the band BEVCO. Hawkins also spent the second half of his Febmester hiking the Appalachian Trail.