STORRS, Conn. – Two-and-a-half weeks separate the University of Connecticut rowing team with its first race of the fall season, the Head of the Riverfront, which will be on Oct. 2 at Riverside Park in Hartford, Conn.
The current roster has 47 Huskies preparing to set out on the Connecticut River that day, though more will be added throughout the fall in preparation for the spring season and American Athletic Conference competition.
A senior class of five rowers intends to share its experience with the 16 juniors, 15 sophomores and 11 freshmen that round-out the roster. It all begins, however, with physical and mental preparation.
“As a whole, I think our team came back from this summer in the best rowing shape yet,” said senior Katie Ullinger. “The intrinsic motivation is there for each of us…the bar has been raised; the expectation for this season is to be physically capable and mentally tough.”
Many times, a race might come down to just a few precious seconds – or tenths of seconds – to determine the winner. Ullinger stressed the importance of “finding fuel in an empty tank” to help UConn this season.
In order for everyone to be on the same page, however, the UConn seniors need to work on developing team culture, according to Kate Boudreau.
“There are so many factors that go into increasing boat speed. Fitness and technique are incredibly important, but we also have to focus on team culture,” said Boudreau. “Rowing is a mental sport – sometimes winning and losing comes down to attitude, camaraderie and mental toughness.”
Under 20-year head coach Jennifer Wendry, the Huskies finished sixth in the American Athletic Conference Championship last May in Sacramento, Calif. Using that benchmark as motivation, UConn looks to improve with each race in anticipation of May, 2017.
“We came very close at many regattas to making the finals last year, so I think bundling off of those “almosts” and keeping them in the back of our minds will help us put in that extra push at practice,” said senior Katherine Wheatley.
Last year at the Head of the Riverfront, UConn’s ‘A’ boat finished second in the open 8+ final in a time of 16:57.18. In the open 4+ final, UConn’s ‘A’ boat placed in fourth with a time of 19:21.55.
“I think the team dynamic will improve everything. Having only five seniors, we are already a tight-knit class and we relay those attitudes of togetherness, family and positive communication towards our teammates,” said senior Arielle Sherman-Golembeski.
When it comes to providing advice to the younger rowers this season, it has less to do with the sport and more to do with a full college experience.
“I hope to help the younger rowers appreciate how fortunate we are to have the opportunity to be a part of this team,” said Boudreau, who plans to go to medical school after graduation. “Rowing is about a lot more than making boats move fast; being a member of the UConn rowing team has helped me mature as an athlete, but more importantly as a person.”
"Being able to wake up in the morning, participating in such a unique and special sport, seeing the sunrise and being surrounded by some of my closest friends has taught me to value and appreciate the simple aspects in my day to day life," said senior Sarah Norman.
“You cannot pull the boat by yourself,” added Ullinger. “Sleep when you can, study when you can, and eat when you can. Make sure you give yourself time with friends without all the stress. Your years go by quickly; enjoy every moment on this team.”
After graduation, Sherman-Golembeski looks to attend graduate school for her Master of Social Work, Wheatley will work as a nursing assistant before applying to PA school and Ullinger will stay at UConn for her Master’s degree in Comprehensive Special Education.
Norman will be spending the fall semester abroad in Nottingham, England and then continuing at UConn in the spring to earn her Master's in Secondary History and Social Studies education.
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