I have talked and reminisced about my very first National Team quite a lot. It was such a mix of good and bad; I didn’t know what to expect because I didn’t know anything at all; and I learned a lot that summer. Without the experiences I had on my first Team as a U23 athlete, I wouldn’t have continued on with the National Team when I finished my undergraduate work at Washington. Who knows what I would have ended up doing instead. I’ve traveled, raced, won, and lost all over the world since then–but nothing really has the same special place in my heart that my U23 Team does. And it just so happens it all took place here in Amsterdam, nine years ago.
The short story of my U23 experience is this: my coach suggested I do some camp the summer after my junior year. I didn’t know what it was or what it was for, just that it was different from the pair camp I’d attended the past two years and I needed to break 7:00 on the erg that summer in order to get invited. I did, and then went to camp. As camp got closer, I thought it was going to be a huge group of huge women who were all stronger and more experienced than me. It turned out my U23 camp was a total of 1o athletes, most of whom had not rowed pairs before, and all of whom I had beaten on the erg that year. Even still, I thought camp would be a learning experience and nothing more — I didn’t think I would make the Team.
I did make it, and after being happy for about two minutes, spent the rest of the time leading up to our departure for Europe complaining, yelling at my boat, and being pissed off about how bad I thought the rowing was. After one of our more frustrating days, I actually told my coach that I was ready to quit, and didn’t want to go to Amsterdam. She said that was not an option, so I went.
Everything from getting our gear, to getting ourselves abroad and getting settled at the course is a blur. I remember even less of the racing. But just a few things have changed since U23s in 2005:
- 2005 was the first year that U23s were run as an official World Championship event. Prior, they were called Nations Cup.
- Our USA squad consisted of a W4-, W2X, M4-, M4X and LM4-. There was no W8+ event to enter. The W2X was completely self-organized and funded, the rest were camp boats selected from similarly-small groups of athletes.
- Of that squad, several members went on to row on future Senior National and Olympic Teams but only four of us are still actively competing: myself, Stesha Carlé, Glenn Ochal, and Will Daly.
Despite all of my frustrations and negativity, we ended up winning our races in Amsterdam and being the “first ever” American U23 World Champions (other American women had been winning Nations Cups for quite some time). It was also the “last ever” time I would compete in a sweep event for the United States. OR SO I THOUGHT.
Coming back to the Bosbaan now as a
geriatric senior member of the US National Team it has been great fun to think back about how fun, maddening, exhilarating, and formative that summer was for me, and what it has meant to me in the long-run for my athletic career. My first American teammates are still some of the most important people in my life, and I had the great pleasure of training with Erin Cafaro and Stesha Carlé for most of the last nine years in Princeton. Our fourth, [now] Coach Catherine Starr, is someone I still keep up with and see several times a year – though it is rarer all the time for us all to be in one place together at the same time. I have thought about them every day that I have been here. Usually with a smile and a “who would have thought..?”
I have some history on the Bosbaan. I’m glad to be back. I don’t know what the next week will hold for my Team and me, but at least I didn’t try to quit before we left this time.
Long Live the Dream,