May 16, 2011
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — When Katy Kroll finishes a race as a member of the University of Iowa women’s rowing team, the first thing she checks is her phone. Not to catch up on text messages or voicemails, but to check on rowing results from across the country, seeing how her Hawkeye squad stacks up against fellow NCAA opponents. That’s just the start of her obsession with the sport.
Kroll, a sophomore from Waterford, Wis., has a “passion” for rowing. Others would classify her as a junkie.
“I would say I’m addicted to rowing,” Kroll said. “Without rowing in my life, I don’t know what I would do with my extra time. It’s become such a part of my everyday life.”
Kroll has had been passionate about rowing for as long as she can remember. Her shelves are lined with rowing books. Now as a college student-athlete, she keeps tabs on her opponents and tries to gain as much information on them as possible.
“I like to know the latest information and see how the other teams are doing,” Kroll said. “I scope the horizon and absorb myself in every piece of knowledge I can.”
UI head coach Mandi Kowal loves the fact that one of her younger athletes is entrenched in the sport.
“Checking results from other races creates motivation,” Kowal said. “You can see how close you raced to a competitor. I think it carries in to her approach at practice.”
Kroll describes herself as a “determined and competitive” person, but she is taking steps early in her career to add another adjective to her title… leader.
Kowal has two different groups that help lead her squad. One is her “Leadership Group” of mostly upperclassmen and the other is a group for leaders-in-training. Kroll is a member of the second group and is a near lock to be a part of the “Leadership Group” next fall.
Beyond her technical rowing skills, Kowal believes its Kroll’s intangibles that will make her a great leader.
“She’s aware of beyond just herself,” Kowal said. “She sent an e-mail the other day about how many days are left before Big Ten’s and before NCAA’s. The message wasn’t about her. It was about the team.”
Kroll’s book shelves that are stocked with rowing books had to make way for more sport-related material once she became a member of the leadership development group.
“The reading material has been awesome,” Kroll said. “We read quotes from different athletes and coaches. It really opened my eyes and showed me different opportunities that I have to be a leader. Not only verbally, but non-verbally. How to get the best out of every athlete on the team.” One way Kroll leads is through attitude. Her positive personality makes her a natural at taking charge.
“I like to lead by example,” Kroll said. “I make good decisions and get the team pumped up. I like to draw the confidence out of everyone. If there is a down point, I like to draw the positives out of it. I use setbacks to make us that much stronger.”
Kroll’s teammates and coaches use her contagious smile as a motivator.
“She’s very positive,” Kowal said. “Having somebody with that kind of lightness and positive energy makes people approach things differently. When things get tough, she is still holding her head up high saying `Go Hawks.'”
Kroll’s positive energy can be traced back to her days helping care for her grandmother until she passed away when Kroll was a sophomore in high school. Kroll is a therapeutic recreation major and wants to continue caring for people after her rowing career.
“I enjoy helping people and getting people into a better state,” Kroll said. “I get a lot of satisfaction when you can see improvements in people.”
Whether it’s on the water or in the classroom, Kroll exhibits plenty of dedication. That’s what drew Kowal to Kroll during the recruiting process.
“She has great work ethic,” Kowal said. “She isn’t afraid to work hard. She has that blue-collar work ethic that fits well with our program.”
Kroll proved her dedication to rowing by training nearly all summer last year with the U.S. National Team in Vermont.
“We were in the middle of nowhere,” Kroll said. “Our cell phones didn’t work because we were on top of a mountain. We had to drive 45 minutes to get cell phone reception.”
For most college students, having no cell phone reception would be a nightmare. It was heaven for Kroll.
“It was a perfect rowing environment,” Kroll said. “Everything else was shut out. It was basically eat, sleep and row. It sparked my passion that much more.”
Kroll has shown a tremendous upside in her first two years at Iowa. Along one of the walls in the state-of-the-art erg room at the Beckwith Boathouse are the all-time records boards, with the top training times in Iowa rowing history. Katy Kroll’s name is at the top of both the 2k and 6k boards, setting those marks as a freshman.
“She has a lot of potential,” Kowal said. “She’s on our records boards already and she got on there as a freshman, which is pretty hard to do. She’s got the things that are sometimes hard to teach. Just the really hard, tenacious, gutsy rowing.”
Potential, mixed with blossoming leadership and an obsession with the sport, makes Kroll a rower to watch in the coming years.
“She’s going to be a great leader and a commander in the boat,” Kowal said. “People are going to flock to her for energy and for guidance.”
Kowal defines individual success for her athletes not by classifying who is the fastest or slowest, but who improves the most. That definition is what makes Kroll a potential all-star for the Hawkeyes.
“She showed early success, but how she will be compared will be how she finishes her last two years,” Kowal said. “If she moves forward, she will be in the top five-percent of the Hawkeyes that have come through this program.”