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Stepping into the Future

The 2019 Senior class at Renton Rowing Center graduated three recruited athletes, Erik Eykle recruited to Loyola Maryland University, Renee Hopper recruited and committed to University of Washington, and Nicole Winters recruited and committed to Washington State University. This year marked a monumental achievement for any club sport team - having Division I recruited athletes.

I remember fall season, Renee and I showed up early everyday to erg for thirty minutes before practice. We talked about which coaches had reached out to us, what they had said or asked, if we had been invited to go on any official visits, and which schools where at the top of our lists. With just a couple of months of rowing under our belt, talking to college coaches felt absolutely wild. Neither one of us had ever heard of Title IX or how women’s collegiate rowing came to be, if we had, I think we would have been far more grateful for all of the offers being thrown our way. We were just two seniors, kinda tallish, with fastish erg scores, amazing coaches, and lots of drive. Last November I don’t think we had any idea what our lives would look like this fall as freshmen.

Renee and I are Renton rowers. We took our first strokes here, trained here, and got fast here. We learned how to be athletes from our coaches, and teammates from each other. Ask either one of us and we will tell you that leaving Renton is one of the most bittersweet things we have ever done.

Seniors Renee Hopper and Nicole Winters before racing a double together at Burton Beach
Seniors Renee Hopper and Nicole Winters before racing a double together at Burton Beach

Thinking of what this fifth year of Renton was all about, I can’t help but selfishly believe that having recruited athletes was a big part -- Renton Rowing Center certainly wasn’t in the same position five years ago. In the years to come, I know many more Renton rowers will have the chance to row for some of the most competitive schools in the country. We will be great athletes, and we will be great students, but more than any of that, we will be great people, because we will know to be ever grateful for the opportunity we have been given.

RRC and Vashon Island Rowing bonding after a scrimmage and team breakfast
RRC and Vashon Island Rowing bonding after a scrimmage and team breakfast.

Renton may have started as an underdog of a boathouse. Our trailer is whack and our boats are never the fastest, but something about our program creates athletes that are willing to work incredibly hard. When I first started talking about rowing in college, Kate Berni told me “you better keep wanting, want until you have everything you’re dreaming of right now, then want a little more.” I’m not sure if she knows that I wrote it down when she said it to me, or that it was the only note I took during that conversation, but I think the message is lasting for every athlete at Renton. We need to want. Want the extra erg piece, want the run, want the hard practice and the 2k tests. Want the days you laugh with your teammates, want the ones where you can’t stand talking to them. Want the new boats, the trailer, the fancy locker rooms. But never forget that once all we wanted was to row.

Please consider joining us for the 5th Annual Evening on the Docks at Renton Rowing Center on Saturday, July 27th. Reserve your seats today!