Amy Fuller Kearney (Picture above. Taken off the UCLA website): She was my rowing coach at UCSB during my second year on the team. That year she had just come back from winning a Silver Medal at the Barcelona Olympics. I remember the first time I met her thinking: Holy Crap I am meeting a real life Olympian. She was pretty laid back and liked to laugh and was hard core when it came to workouts. She pushed us to limits I didn't even know I had. She was a big girl. A Heavy Weight Olympian size girl that had the world record for 2K on the erg so, when I say big I mean big. And yet to this day I am still irritated by one thing, this will crack you all up. Let me back up. When I went out for the crew team a year earlier the coach had assumed I wanted to be a coxswain because I was so short, wrong, I wanted to row. He didn't give me much hope for making a boat but said I could row if I wanted to. Then he said every workout would be taken into account when he was deciding who got to row in which boat and in which race. Duh duh duh, I was in. Half of our workouts were running because we couldn't make it to the lake. I knew instantly that if I kicked every ones butt in every running workout he would have to put me in a boat, I ran my butt off, and he put me in a boat. So by the time Amy came along I was known to be a pretty decent runner. She took us to the stadium to torture us for a while and as I zipped up and down the stairs suddenly this larger than life woman went by me. I went back down and began my next interval, she beat me again. She kept beating me by one step every single interval. She was laughing and taunting me. It was infuriating and yet I so respected her for it. She was amazing she knew just how to push us and she was just amazing athletically. I still am not sure I have ever met such a superior athlete. She knew how to push herself beyond all normal physical limits. She knew how to push us. She was a true machine.
Sarah Jones (picture above, taken from the site it is linked to): Sarah joined my rowing team my junior year, I think? She was amazing. I had never met a girl who was as strong as she was and she was hard core when it came to working out which of course I admired. I was just so impressed with how hard she worked for her goals and how hard she could push herself. It seemed like there were no limits when it came to Sarah. She was truly amazing. To top it off she was a super nice girl. I still to this day think of her when I am doing a really hard workout or race. She would just keep on pushing until she achieved her goal and that sort of spirit has always inspired me to do the same.
Suzi Walther (seen above, she is the tall one, I am the short one): She is the rower who not only inspired me athletically but also changed my life. I met Suzi my freshman year. We rowed on a lightweight boat together, she was a senior in college at the time. We went to Nationals together in a 4 that summer and had a great time. She kept on rowing after college and eventually rowed for the US National team. I don't even know where to begin with Suzi, I have so many stories to tell of how she inspired me and changed me.
The first year I knew her, we were novice rowers (1st year rowers) but the varsity coach saw that some of us Novice Lightweights were proving to be pretty good so he wanted to borrow us for his big race at the end of the year. If you win that race you get a spot at Nationals. So some of us rowed for the Varsity, then for the Novice boat and then for the Novice Open weight boat (they really worked a few of us). That Varsity boat did indeed win and so we had our spot at Nationals. Here is where it go interesting. The Varsity Coach thought it was only fare to let the varsity girls fill that boat for nationals and since the Novices had many more years to row we would stay home but, Suzi had other ideas. She stood up for us and fought the fight to get us our spot in the boat. She wouldn't let it go until they let us have a chance to race for our seats. One morning after the end of the season all the lightweights headed up to the lake and we had a good old fashioned seat race for our spots. She got us our chance and we weren't going to let her down. One by one we raced for our seats and one by one we won our spot on the team. We kicked some booty and were on our way to Nationals. I guess the point of the story is this: Suzi taught me to stand up for not only myself but for what I believed in. Over the years I watched in amazement as she just kept fighting and persevering as a rower. She is truly an amazing person. If ever I have gone through a rough time in life she has always been there not propping me up with meaningless statements but with thought provoking ideas on where I was and where I was headed. She didn't give me fish she taught me to go fishing. She is truly an inspiring individual.
I feel like I have left out so many inspirational rowers but, at some point you have to decide how much runners want to read about rowing :). My Novice year I met some ladies that became life long friends. They were the most amazing group of women. They all inspired me in one way or another. Our Coxswain that year, Brooke Barrington would write me the most inspirational notes you could imagine. As I was looking for a picture of Suzi, I reread some of Brooke's notes and was blown away by what an old soul she was. She had words of wisdom well beyond her years. I ran my first marathon with Brooke, who by the way is now a model for the Title Nine catalog. Point here is that all of the woman I met my novice year really made a difference in who I am now as an athlete and person. Thank you to all of them. I plan to write some other posts about runners who inspired me.