Becoming new athlete, learning from best

Rustemeyer gets new experiences as a first-year rower

Uriah Aguon, Staff Writer

Meghan’s rowing headshot for her freshman year on the team. (Courtesy of Meghan Rustemeyer)

What happens when spring comes around? The snow melts, the clouds part, and the trees blossom. Spring is the season of new beginnings. It’s the season of hope, the season of rejuvenation, and the perfect season for students, businesses, and athletes to start anew. Fortunately for Seattle Pacific University’s rowing team, their season runs right into the 2022 Spring Quarter.

The current roster of rowers holds 17 novices and 16 veterans. Among these novices is Megan Rustemeyer, a first-year criminal justice and psychology double major. Rustemeyer made the rowing team in autumn 2021, during the team’s off-season. Before this season, Rustemeyer had never rowed before and was unsure of what to expect.

In rowing, there are two different types of boats: the eight-person boat and the four-person boat. Rustemeyer prefers rowing in the eight-boat, however, she has yet to receive a primary seat position. This is mostly due to her status as a novice, which involves her moving around a lot from seat position to seat position.

“I’ve been in the four-boat and the eight-boat. Sometimes, I’ll be in the stroke seat, which is the person in front who determines how fast the boat’s going, or sometimes, I’ll be in the back of the boat. It really just depends on the day,” Rustemeyer said.

Entering any sport as a beginner can feel threatening; however, Rustemeyer claims to have felt welcomed and part of the team since her start at the beginning of the school year, despite rowing alongside varsity rowers with years of experience ahead of her.

“There’s a lot of novices this year, and we’re all learning together, so I don’t really feel any kind of pressure. The team dynamic overall is really great and really encouraging,” Rustemeyer said.

Rustemeyer was not an athlete in high school, so she is fairly new to the overall lifestyle. Her motivations for joining the team reflected the mentality of most first-years: to seek new experiences and hope for fun.

“I did not realize at first how intensive and how much it takes to be a Division II athlete. It was kind of a shock to me. I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t even know how to get in a boat or move an oar… so I have gotten a lot better at how I do things in the boat, how I work with other people, and just learning how to be a good athlete in general.” Rustemeyer said.

In looking toward the future, Rustemeyer looks to the rowing team’s veterans and hopes to become a solid athlete like them. She imagines herself becoming an inspirational and encouraging person to future novices, as they are to her.

“The biggest goal that we all have is to push ourselves to get faster and each other to get faster, but as far as personal goals, I just want to see how far I can get with this, like if I could potentially be a top D-II athlete. I want to get to a point where I am in that varsity-level top eight-boat.” Rustemeyer said.

Meghan out with friends Dori Hrabal, Emily McElheran, Johanna Brown, Shaye Martin, and Belle Burnside at the UW Cherry Blossoms. (Courtesy of Meghan Rustemeyer)

SPU’s rowing team is nationally ranked with high standing in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. Rustemeyer claims their focus at the moment is to simply qualify for the division seeds. 

“The team’s priority every season is to first reach the finals before trying to win the championship. Our very top goal would be to win championships, of course, but as the season progresses, what we do is we focus on our next race and then that determines how we’ll do in the race after that.” Rustemeyer said. 

This is a mentality not uncommon in sports. After all, a team needs to reach the finals before they can attempt to become champions. As a novice, Rustemeyer’s greatest takeaways from her experience thus far as to, one, enjoy the sport and the people around her, and two, never give up or quit too easily. 

“I had no idea what my body was capable of, just knowing that I can push myself and I can continue to improve, even when it seems like I can’t. And also rowing is as much physical as it is mental, so working on a good mentality like you can do more and you can do better than this. It’s just a block, and you can get through this,” Rustemeyer said.