Getting To Know The Team Series

20.03.2015 BY: National Rowing Foundation

Over the past few months while many of you have been suffering through a rather rough winter, the USRowing athletes have been out in Chula Vista at the Olympic Training Center.  Now you may think it is all just fun in the sun — beaches, surfing, volleyball and the occasional row, this is not the case.  I mean fun is had on the rare afternoon of free time, but with both the men and women doing three sessions a day more often than not, the real focus is preparing for the 2015 World Championships and qualifying for the Rio Olympics.

We do get to spend a great deal of time together in the dining hall commiserating over rough training sessions or celebrating the good ones. The dining hall is especially fun because athletes have the opportunity to get to know one another. Leading up to next month’s NSR, we will be interviewing two athletes each week and sharing their stories with you.

This week I am proud to introduce you to Austin Hack and Kerry Simmonds, two talented rowers and very interesting people.

 

Austin Hack

Austin was gracious enough to provide us with an outstanding photo of himself growing up along with a photo of him in South Korea learning about the local customs.

Austin Hack

The basics – Where are you from? Where/When did you learn to row? What University did you attend?

I’m from Old Lyme, CT, a small coastal town about halfway between New York and Boston. I started rowing at the learn-to-row program in my town when I was 12, and then rowed for my local club (Blood Street Sculls) and my high school (Lyme-Old Lyme). I graduated from Stanford University last June, with a major in Political Science and a minor in Modern Languages (German/Arabic).

What other sports did you play growing up? Do you think any of these affected you positively in your transition to rowing?

From a young age, I participated in sports year round. Until the end of middle school, I sailed in the summer, played soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter, and baseball in the spring. I didn’t start to focus on rowing until high school, when I dropped everything except for rowing and basketball. As a skinny, lanky, and not particularly athletic kid, learning the coordination required by different sports definitely helped me to gain better control of my body, so I’d say playing other sports was hugely beneficial. Gaining that athleticism and bodily awareness continues to help me today.

What is your fondest memory of rowing to this point?

I think winning the World Cup in Lucerne in 2013 is my favorite memory to date. It was my first race at the senior team level, and our success coupled with the beautiful scenery of Switzerland makes it a cherished memory.

What is your most embarrassing rowing memory, flipping, ejection crab and the like?

I used to flip in the single periodically when I was at Stanford. We rowed at the Port of Redwood City which was an inlet from the San Francisco Bay, and there were sometimes weird tides and eddies that could be pretty startling. There was also this tide control system (AKA “the waterfall”) in the tidal wetlands near the boathouse that caused huge currents to rush through when the tide was changing, and I flipped going through that after all of my teammates had already made it. I think I completely ruined at least two backstays from such capsizes.

You made the Senior team while still in school, how has the transition been from student athlete to full time athlete?

It’s definitely been a big change. Making the team in the summers after being in school for nine months was somewhat less stressful, because there wasn’t the daily pressure to perform like there is when you’re a full time athlete. Previously I could just show up in June, rip off a couple race pieces and hope I won my seat races; as a full time athlete, you’re judged by the body of results you build over the whole year. Though it’s certainly more stressful, I can see that I’ve made a lot of improvements since transitioning to full-time, so that’s been rewarding.

When you think about your future in rowing, do you think just about Worlds this year, or do you think long term also, the Rio Olympics and beyond?

I think everyone on the team has Rio in the back of their minds at all times, but personally I like to focus my energy on the shorter term. Obviously this year’s Worlds will be extremely important in terms of actually qualifying for the Olympics, but I don’t even think that far ahead- I prefer to get through every day one by one, and build those days into weeks and then months. Thinking about all the training we still have remaining before Rio can seem pretty daunting, so that’s mainly why I set shorter-term checkpoints.

For other young guys still in school or just finishing and hoping to join the team what advice would you give?

Speaking of my own experience, the two most significant changes I’ve had to make since college were my strength in the weight room, and my day-to-day mentality. While I did lift in college, I’ve had to play catch-up a little bit since joining the team, and I’ve slowly been seeing the benefits of that. Regarding my mentality, I had to improve my ability to perform at my potential throughout the daily grind, regardless of mental or physical fatigue. If national team hopefuls worked on those two pieces, I think that would make their transition to life on the team a bit more fluid.

Lastly, what is one interesting fact about yourself that not many people know?

I am extremely passionate about donuts.

Austin Hack

 

Kerry Simmonds

Kerry provided us with this great photo of her (right) and her sister at the beach in her hometown of San Diego.

Kerry Simmonds

The basics – Where are you from? Where/when did you learn to row? What University did you attend?

I am from San Diego, California. And I learned to row at the University of Washington in Seattle.

What other sports did you play growing up? Do you think any of these affected you positively or negatively in your transition to rowing?

I was always into sports growing up, beginning with soccer, running, basketball and of course I LOVED partaking in all the games at school (e.g. teatherball, kickball, four square, handball, capture the flag, etc). In high school I varsity lettered in cross country, basketball and track & field. Basketball taught me about body awareness and how to communicate with my teammates on the court. Cross country gave me a good endurance base and the mental toughness. Both sports most definitely helped with my transition to rowing in college.

What is your fondest memory of rowing to this point?

I suppose I might have to say last year’s NSR in the women’s pair is my fondest rowing memory to date because it was so surreal. My pair partner, Megan Kalmoe and I went in with no expectations but a mindset to do our best and hope that would qualify us for the A final. We were able to work together well and improve over the three day regatta. In the end, although the field was very tight, we came out on top. It was amazing to feel like on that final day our best was good enough.

What is your most embarrassing rowing memory, flipping, ejection crab or the like?

At the 2014 World Championships this past summer in Amsterdam. Kalmoe and I accidentally held the American flag backwards on the medals podium. And there are pictures to prove it. Not our most patriotic moment.

You have had some great success during your brief period on the senior team so far, in both big and small boats, which do you prefer and why?

I think I would have to say it’s still too early in my career on the senior team for me to cultivate any preferences, so really I am still just happy to make a boat on the team. I do enjoy the intimacy and greater responsibility that comes with racing in the pair. But I also enjoy the raw power of the eight and the feeling of flying of the water that can come when you are all working in unison.

When you think about your future in rowing, do you think just about worlds this year or do you think long term also, the Rio Olympics and beyond?

If I learned anything from being on the team thus far, is to be in the present. Take one day at a time because injuries, illness, personal crises usually happen at the most inconvenient of times. So when I think about my future in rowing I think more short term and try to achieve goals throughout the year that I set for myself.

Lastly, what is one interesting fact about yourself that not many people know?

My younger brother, Eric, recently competed on “Jeopardy!”. April 6th, 2014 air date. That is the most interesting fact about me right now 🙂

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