March 5, 2013
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Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — When it came to picking a hobby in college, Gabby Watson had planned on sticking with what she knew best; music. That all changed with one short conversation on the way to sign up for a choir.
Watson, a sophomore on the University of Iowa women’s rowing team, didn’t participate in high school athletics. She ran track in middle school, but found a passion in music throughout high school and was in show choir, jazz and opera. During freshman orientation in the fall of 2011, Watson was ready to find more musical opportunities at the UI. It just so happened that the rowing coaches had a table set up close to the choir department.
“I was actually signing up for choir and the rowing table was adjacent,” Watson said. “Someone from the rowing staff talked to me because I looked tall and athletic. They asked me to come to an informational meeting, and it took off from there.”
The UI women’s rowing team has approximately 75 student-athletes on its roster. Some have extensive rowing backgrounds out of high school and earn a scholarship as freshmen. Others, like Watson, join the novice program, which develops women interested in participating into an elite-level athlete.
“This is unlike anything I’ve ever done. It has been an amazing experience. Joining the rowing team was the type of change I needed to make in college. I was doing music for such a long time and that’s all I knew. Being on the rowing team has really broadened my experiences.”
UI sophomore Gabby Watson
Novice rowers come from different backgrounds. One athlete could have been a standout swimmer or basketball player in high school. Another could have been a gifted student who excels in areas outside athletics, but has a proven work ethic and time management skills.
“It’s amazing how fortunate we are to find tremendous athletes like Gabby,” head coach Steve Pritzker said. “People who never knew the athleticism they possessed, but could compete at a high level for numerous rowing teams across the country.”
Even though Watson wasn’t an athlete in high school, she is thriving in an athletic setting at the UI. She has made the climb from novice to varsity in one year and has been impressive on the water this season.
“Gabby is a very hard worker,” Pritzker said. “She has attacked training with a great attitude and the results are showing on the water.”
Watson knew she wanted to do something to keep her busy during college. She had never dreamed that activity would be rowing.
“I’m used to having something very centralized and scheduling my life around that,” Watson said. “Rowing definitely takes care of that.”
Even though training and academics fills most days, Watson still finds time to escape with music.
“I’m always going to be a singer,” Watson said. “I play the piano every week. Rowing takes up a lot of time, but I still find time for my music.”
Watson’s rowing voice has flourished in Pritzker’s first year as head coach. She can see the changes being made that will take the program to new heights.
“The attitude and overall ability of the team is really changing this year,” Watson said. “Coach Pritzker just came in and made changes, all for the better.”
Watson went out on a limb and made the biggest change of her life during freshman orientation two years ago. It was an intimidating thought at the time, but she has no regrets.
“This is unlike anything I’ve ever done,” Watson said. “It has been an amazing experience. Joining the rowing team was the type of change I needed to make in college. I was doing music for such a long time and that’s all I knew. Being on the rowing team has really broadened my experiences.”