Jen Myers of UC San Diego women's crew will be competing at the NCAA Division II National Championships this weekend in the Tritons' varsity eight. The UCSD squad is making its fourth consecutive appearance in the NCAA postseason. Myers, a senior from Mammoth Lakes, Calif., rows out of the seven seat and has set numerous training records atop the program's leaderboards. “It's been an honor to work with a person of her caliber,” Tritons' head coach Pattie Pinkerton said about Myers. “She's very inspirational for her teammates and we want to make her senior season and third NCAA Championships appearance an awesome one.” A U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association Junior Olympian in high school, Myers was named to the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association All-America team this week. Before leaving for the trip to the championships held at the Sacramento State Aquatic Center in Rancho Cordova, Myers talks about the intricacies of rowing, goals for this weekend and her future beyond UCSD.
Q - After the Pacific Coast Rowing Championships (PCRC) on May 17, your squad wasn't 100 percent certain it would receive a bid into this year's NCAA Championships. How excited were you the moment when your coach got the call from the selection committee and what does this weekend mean to you?
Myers - With the West Region’s automatic bid basically guaranteed to go to Western Washington University, the D-II National Champions for the past three years, we headed into the PCRCs determined to prove that we deserved the remaining single at-large team bid. We created a strong case for that when both the eight and the four finished second only to WWU, but we still had to wait for the committee’s decision. It was an intense three days of waiting, and when that call finally came, I was just as much relieved as I was excited. There was an eruption of shouting, laughter, hugs, and tears amongst those of us who had been waiting for the call in the office. Before our coach had even hung up the phone, we were relaying the message to teammates, alumni, friends, and family through texts and emails and phone calls.
The fact that this is our third consecutive team bid and fourth straight appearance in the NCAAs says a lot about the strength of this program. Pattie and the rest of the coaching staff have done an amazing job developing a competitive program here, and it has been such a privilege to be a part of it. Our participation in this nationals is a testimony of the program’s commitment to excellence, and for me, this nationals is one more chance to compete with my teammates in front of my friends and family in order to try to bring home a national title to UCSD.
Q - For someone new to the sport of rowing, what are the key aspects of the position that you row out of - seven-seat and starboard?
Myers - Seven-seat must be both a support for her stroke (8-seat) and a leader for the starboard side. She has to be able to mirror the stroke-seat and translate that rhythm for the starboard side in order to ensure that the two sides are synchronized.
Q - Another beginner's question - what role does the coxswain play in a boat's success and what level of chemistry does Stephanie Chang have with the rest of your varsity eight group?
Myers - Those outside of the rowing world always misunderstand the coxswain’s role and underestimate her importance. Yes, she is the small person sitting at the stern of the boat talking while everyone else is rowing, but there’s a lot more to it than that. The coxswain steers the boat along the straightest and quickest path possible, using a credit card-sized rudder to avoid other crews, bridges, and buoys. The coxswain develops the race plan and informs her rowers of their position both along the course and in relation to the other crews. She also coaches her rowers, giving them feedback on technique and focal points in order to enhance the balance and speed of the boat. The coxswain is the “brains of the outfit,” and she must be able to connect with her rowers. A good coxswain truly knows her rowers. That’s Stephanie. Steph knows what motivates each of her girls and she has the ability to tap into each of our strengths. We all share in a deep trust with her. She demands our best, and not a single one of us would ever deny her it.
Q - After the championships this weekend and your upcoming graduation, what career plans do you plan to pursue? Will rowing continue to be a part of your life?
Myers - My time here has helped me realize how much I enjoy being active and working with athletes, so I have decided to pursue a career in physical therapy. As far as rowing goes, it will definitely continue to be a part of my life. The beauty of this sport is that it attracts all levels and ages. I’m not sure at what level of competitiveness I will continue my rowing career, but I do know that it is something I will enjoy even when I am an old woman.
Q - In high school you were a Junior Olympian in the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. What strengths at skiing were you able to carry over into your current crew success?
Myers - Cross-country skiing helped develop my “athlete mentality.” It was a very individualistic sport, so I had to teach myself how to stay motivated and determined when I was out there all on my own. I also learned how to deal with my own negative thoughts as well as the pressures and anxieties of racing. These aspects of my mental game have been extremely beneficial in crew where less time focusing on individual barriers means more time strengthening the team as a whole.
Q - Do you have any superstitions or pre-race rituals?
Myers - For me, before I launch for a race, I have to get into that huddle with the girls. I don’t need a motivational speech or arousing cheer; I just need that moment to see the determination on their faces. I need that moment to reflect on the time and work that brought us there, and I need that moment to commit to laying it all on the line for them.
Q - The ultimate training tool for a rower is the erg. Do you have a love/hate relationship with that workout machine?
Myers - A love/hate relationship is probably the best way to describe my feelings about the erg. As soon as you strap your feet in and pick up that handle, you know that pain and exhaustion are going to be your only companions until you put that handle back down. But, the sense of accomplishment you get when you do finally put that handle back down is awesome. In a way, I think all rowers begin to crave and thrive on that feeling of achievement after a hard set.
Q - How did growing up in Mammoth Lakes foster your athletic aspirations and interests?
Myers - Mammoth, being a ski resort town in the Eastern Sierras, is a very active community that attracts lots of athletes and outdoor enthusiasts. Both of my parents are very active and love to spend time outside, so my summers were spent mountain biking, hiking, and swimming, and my winters were spent skiing on the mountain and the cross-country trails. All of my friends were very active as well, so no matter the season, we were always involved in some sport together – swimming, soccer, running, or skiing. It was just the norm for us, and it wasn’t until I moved away from home that I realized how unique it truly was.
Q - If you could leave a novice freshman rower with one piece of advice, what would it be?
Myers - Take it all in. This time really does go quickly, so try to make the most of every day with your teammates. Learn from and support each other through the hard days and celebrate and lift each other up on the good ones. Live big and risk failure because the striving makes you stronger. Leave your mark and make your own memories. And always remember that the glory is in the team, not the individual.
Myers and UCSD women's crew compete in their first race at 9:15 a.m. on Friday and action will continue Saturday and Sunday. For complete coverage, head to http://www.natoma08.com.
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