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Rowing: Ohio State’s winning program begins with preparation and discipline

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Ohio State three-time national champion Stephanie Williams is looking to get her team back to being NCAA champions. Credit: Courtesy of OSU Athletics

The Ohio State rowing team’s competition schedule lasts only 65 days, beginning on March 25 and ending at the NCAA Championships on May 28.

For a team looking for its fifth straight Big Ten championship and fourth national title in five years, preparation is vital.

“We’ll spend an entire year preparing for six or seven minutes. That’s how long the races normally are and there aren’t many of them to begin with,” said junior Cassandra Johnson. “It makes the races that much more special. Every single one counts and requires the entire year of work beforehand.”

The extra focus on preparation within the OSU rowing program shows. Last season marked the first time since 2013 that the team failed to bring home a national championship.

Johnson said that rowing demands excellence, especially at one of the premier programs in the country.

“Rowing teaches you hard work and time management,” she said. “Practicing as much as we do, you don’t have time to not show your worth. Mentally, I’m a whole lot stronger than I was before I came here because you have to stay mentally strong to do what we do.”

That mentality is molded through the grueling schedule that coach Andy Teitelbaum puts his athletes through. The team practices twice a day, six days a week.

“Our scheduling in the offseason and regular season isn’t really different,” Johnson said. “We’re 100 percent all year round. In the fall, it’s a little more relaxed, but we still do two-a-days. We basically go full force most of the year.”

The intense workload also pays dividends in the classroom. On a roster consisting of 36 players, 22 are scholar-athletes.

“Nothing demonstrates the true essence of the student athlete more than the hundreds of scholar-athletes in our department,” Teitelbaum said. “Our athletes strive hard to uphold the school’s commitment to excellence in every endeavor.”

OSU has enjoyed a solid start to their 2017 campaign since it kicked off in March. The team won nine races against both Harvard and Yale, and added three more wins this past weekend in the Pac-12 Challenge.

Given how short the Buckeyes’ season is, consistently taking advantage of every opportunity is vital to qualify for the NCAA Championships.

It’s something that three-time NCAA champion senior Stephanie Williams understands all too well.

“Postseason racing is really exciting and fun,” Williams said. “I’ve definitely made my best memories in the postseason. You also form new and closer relationships with others. I grew up in Tasmania, Australia, which is very small and undiverse, and now I’ve got friends all around the world.”

In her final year at OSU, Williams welcomes any and all support of the team as they attempt to not only capture another national title, but win their fifth consecutive Big Ten Championship.

“I encourage people to get out and see OSU teams that they don’t know as well as sports like football or basketball,” Williams said. “Rowing is a very pure, athletic sport and is unique in the fact that everybody is as important as the other person. We don’t have somebody to substitute in, so no matter how many are in a boat, they’re all equally as important.”

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