Row Together, Stay Together

Hawkeye Fan Shop — A Black & Gold Store | 24 Hawkeyes to Watch 2016-17 | Hawk Talk Monthly — Feb. 2017

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. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.



IOWA CITY, Iowa — Rowing provides an opportunity for women to build lasting friendships and create deep connections.
For junior Gemma Kerr, sophomore Hannah Bristowe, and freshman Katie Pearson, rowing together for the Canadian team at CanAmMex provided the perfect opportunity to create a bond that would last a lifetime; a bond that would carry over to the University of Iowa.
CanAmMex is regatta held every year between Canada, United States, and Mexico. A different country hosts the event each year. In 2015, when the three girls raced for Canada, the event was held in Mexico City.
“We traveled to Mexico a few days before the competition started and we stayed in the Olympic Village from when the Olympics were held in Mexico,” said Kerr. “They still had the rings ups and we raced at the Olympic course, which was cool. It’s in a valley, so you could see the mountains off in the distance. It was beautiful.”
In addition to seeing the sights of the Olympic Village, having the regatta on the Olympic course provided an excellent opportunity for the rowers to gain experience at an advanced level.
“The CanAmMex was a great experience,” said Kerr. “It’s the first taste you get of competing at a level beyond university because you’re competing in your country’s colors. It’s crazy to get to put on the flag and go for it.”
The process for being selected to the Canadian team is challenging, and that is where Kerr and Bristowe’s story begins. Kerr tried out for the competition during the summer between her freshman and sophomore year of college. She searched for the perfect partner to time trail with, but she was having trouble finding someone. Then the Iowa coaches recommended Bristowe.
“The coaches were recruiting Hannah during my freshman year,” said Kerr. “She had signed to attend Iowa for the next year, and the coaches told me they had someone out in Ontario who they thought I could trial with. They wanted me to meet her so she would have a friendly face on the team when she came to campus. I needed a partner and she needed a partner, so we decided to go for it.”
Kerr and Bristowe made the team. The duo then met Pearson when they arrived in Mexico City, where Kerr and Pearson were roommates and all three were scheduled to row together in both the Eight and Coxless Four events.
This is where discussions of the University of Iowa began. Kerr had just completed her first year in Iowa City, and shared with the two her passion about the team and university.
“I rowed at the same club as Gemma, which is out on the (Canadian) west coast,” said Pearson. “We got to Mexico City and I roomed with Gemma for the week. She was talking about Iowa a lot and it sounded amazing, so I started communicating with the coaches. When I visited Iowa, Hannah was my host and we were all able to reconnect.”
From there, the process took care of itself. Pearson arrived the next fall and the three have been reunited in Hawkeye crews.
“It has been nice to come to a university where there are women I had already rowed with,” said Pearson. “It’s more than that with Gemma and Hannah, though. Rowing is a sport that creates tight friendships and bonds that are stronger than normal.  Coming to Iowa and having the two of them here was like coming home to a second family.”