STORRS, Conn. – Joining the UConn rowing program as a sophomore was admittedly intimidating for Katie Ullinger, a transfer from the University of Rhode Island where she was a swimmer in her freshman year.
Three years later in her senior campaign, she has racked up a few rowing accolades and a lifetime of memories since becoming a Husky.
“The switch (from swimming to rowing) was intimidating, but the team culture and environment upon my arrival immediately lessened my fears and worries,” said Ullinger. “This team has changed my life.”
Her UConn rowing career will end on Saturday at the American Athletic Conference Championship in Sarasota, Fla., but it is the subtle memories of time with her teammates that will last beyond her rowing days.
“When I leave, of course I’ll reflect on the racing, but I will also think fondly of the friendships. The team breakfasts after practice, the travel bus rides to Philadelphia and the countless Coventry Lake sunrises,” said Ullinger.
The team culture made Ullinger feel welcome once she arrived on campus and it is that level of comfort that allowed her to achieve at a high level. In the 2015 AAC Championship, she was part of a bronze medal boat in the Third Varsity 4+.
“I remember going into that race excited, but calm,” said Ullinger. “It was an extremely close race, which made it that more exciting. Going up to receive a conference medal after my first year on the team was a wonderful memory.”
A native of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Ullinger will be participating in her third consecutive American Athletic Conference Championship on Saturday. The Huskies placed eighth out of 13 teams at the Eastern Sprints on April 30.
“Every race leading up to this point, we have gotten faster. From our first race against UCF to the Eastern Sprints, we continue to improve,” said Ullinger. “Our team has the most depth I have seen during my time at UConn. I can’t wait to see what we can do in Sarasota.”
Now a UConn graduate after Commencement last weekend, Ullinger is starting to focus on life after rowing – but not after school quite yet.
“In the fall, I will study to get my master’s degree as a part of my five-year NEAG School of Education program, studying comprehensive special education and literacy,” said Ullinger.
One of just five seniors on the team, she will have one more opportunity to lead the Huskies on Saturday, as she looks to make one more memory.