Athlete Reflections YNC 2015

By Katrina Kirchgaesser:

A spilled coke. 
The woman sitting next to me on the plane had spilled her coke all over me. It drenched through my pink shorts and dripped into my shoes and made my legs sticky. But to be honest I didn't really care. I was heading to Tampa airport with my teammates for a week of racing with infinite possibilities and a cold soda wasn't going to change that. This was just another little twist in my story of getting to Nationals.

And as the plane descended, I thought of all the twists and turns my journey had taken to get there. The journey to get to the USRowing Youth Nationals was a long one. And definitely not always easy. In numbers it took roughly…

- 3 1/2 years of rowing experience
- 800 practices over the years (counting those long winter erg sessions)
-10,000 miles parents drove over the years to practices/regattas
-12 weeks of dieting to keep weight under 130
-4 times I seriously considered quitting
-At least 200 hours of missed sleep I will never get back
-Countless blisters and tears

 All to spend eight minutes rowing 2,000 meters.
Was it worth it? Definitely.

 The journey is what made going to Nationals all the more sweeter. In rowing, I had to learn about discipline, teamwork, and sportsmanship. I had to learn to embrace pain, to know the difference between pushing myself and making excuses. I had to learn how to act like I helped set the table even if I had my own self doubts. I had to learn what it was to be selfless-to eat healthy not just for myself but to make the boat go faster, to push harder not just for myself but to make the whole team go faster.

 We were built up to imagine Nathan Benderson Park as the mother of all race courses. If we were pilgrims this was our Mecca. A holy place so few get to actually go.The perfect regatta venue. Fair lanes, smooth water, and perhaps most importantly a great viewing area where our coaches and parents could yell their support. This included our Coach Guy who apparently ran a full 500 meters with our boat screaming FIGHT! at the top of his lungs.

 As we drove up to the course the first time I had to catch my breathe and pinch myself because it felt so surreal. I was finally there, and not only that, I was there with teammates who I loved and supported. Teammates that turned to each other to hold and cry when we failed and to hug and cheer when we succeeded, and for those reasons…….. I really didn't mind a spilled coke.

By Natalie Knight:

One of the most important skills I have learned from rowing is setting goals. Throughout the past four years of my rowing career, I have trained hard but have dealt with the disappointments of injury and not making boats. However, along this uncertain journey of mine, my goals have kept me grounded and focused not just on somewhat trivial things – like what seat I sat in at practice on a particular day – but the more significant experiences I wished to have by the end of my senior year. All the smaller goals have led up to the one major goal, the only one that I actually cared about: making it to USRowing Youth Nationals.

For a long time I could not help but picture myself standing on the podium in 2015 with a medal hanging around my neck. I thought that if I worked hard, as I had been doing, that I could accomplish anything. And to an extent that is true in rowing – hard work absolutely produces results. But what I failed to understand was that just because I was working hard did not mean that other people all around the country were not working just as hard, or harder than I was. 

The first time I walked into Nathan Benderson Park, I was in awe of all the other athletes who looked like they knew exactly what they were doing. I was intimated, to say the least. This was not just one of those regattas where anyone can show up and paddle down the course, but instead the culmination of high school rowing. The fastest athletes and crews looking to crown themselves national champions, and every single one of them had a unique story of how they reached that point.

Honestly, looking back on this experience of training for and competing at Nationals, I would not have done anything differently even though the result was not what I may have envisioned a few years ago. I sacrificed my grades, my social life, and my family. I was incredibly conscientious of everything I was and wasn’t putting into my body. I brought a desire to improve every single practice. I learned about race preparation and recovery, and how vital each is to success. Most importantly, I created unbelievable bonds with my teammates and, together, we fought through every inch on that race course. Although it has taken me a few days to realize, I got so much more out of this experience than “success” would have provided me with. I achieved my goal, had an incredible week with my team, and ultimately could not be prouder of how I ended my high school rowing career.