Gophersports.com sat down with rowing team captain Cheryl Wick as the team prepares for the NCAA Championships, May 25-27, in Oak Ridge, Tenn. Wick is in her second year as the team captain and will compete in her final collegiate competition this weekend. During her tenure with the Gophers, Wick has been a two-time second-team All-Big Ten selection and was honored with Minnesota's Sportsmanship award in 2007. A member of the First Varsity Eight, Wick has helped lead the Gophers to an 11th-place ranking entering the NCAA Championships. During the course of the week, a student-athlete from each boat will be represented in a Q and A session on gophersports.com.
Q: How did you get started in the sport of rowing?
A: A friend of mine in high school introduced me to the sport. I was a three sport athlete in high school, but wasn’t planning on competing after I graduated in any of those activities so she suggested I come try rowing. I think I was instantly hooked.
Q: You transferred from St. Thomas and came here to row on the varsity team. How big of an adjustment and learning curve did you have to go through during your first year?
A: I think I went through a huge adjustment coming from St. Thomas’s Club team to the varsity program here at the U; physically as well as mentally. I think I spent the whole first year just trying to figure out the varsity way of athletics. I was, and still am, a very competitive person and that really worked to my advantage with transferring. Whenever I could I would watch the older, more experienced rowers and try to mimic their stroke. I also tried to match as well as I could so that someone watching wouldn’t be able to tell that I was the new kid. I knew that if I wanted to have a spot in one of the varsity boats I would have to become a very efficient and effective rower; partly because I was a transfer walk-on and partly because I was, and still am, shorter than your average rower. If others were going to beat me either on the erg or in the weight room, I most definitely wasn’t going to let them beat me mentally. Rowing is all about determination and heart and I knew I could match anyone in those.
Q: You are the first person in school history to become a two-time team captain. Is it hard to manage a large team like rowing that has so many student-athletes on the team?
A: When my teammates first voted me captain two years ago I remember driving home from that banquet and suddenly feeling overwhelmed. At the time it seemed like such a daunting task to be the representative for so many athletes. But over the course of these seasons I really learned that when you have such amazing, dedicated women on your team, being captain is more fun than anything. I think that it’s one of the greatest complements I’ve gotten when my teammates wanted my leadership another year. Knowing that they felt I did a good job the first time to want me to be their leader again was truly humbling.
Q: You competed with the First Varsity Eight last year at NCAAs. What advice can you give to the Second Varsity Eight and the Varsity Four who have yet to experience the NCAA Championships?
A: I would tell them to enjoy everything about it. NCAAs are a scary, daunting, emotional-filled, excruciatingly painful, amazing experience unlike any other. I learned more in that week about myself as an athlete and as a competitor than I had in all the years of rowing I had done prior to then. I can’t wait to experience it again. But more than that, I can’t wait to see each of my teammates experience it.
Q: What would you and the rest of the First Varsity Eight like to accomplish at the NCAA Championships?
A: Last year we missed making the Grand Final by about a second. This year we want to be in that race, competing for one of the top six spots in the nation. The highest we were ranked this season was seventh, but we know that we have the abilities to compete against the programs ranked higher than us.
Q: What is the strangest thing that has happened to you or a boat since joining the rowing team?
A: I have flipped while rowing a boat once. That isn’t all that uncommon I suppose with the smaller rower shells (singles, doubles, or pairs); however, I was in a four. It was one of the first weeks I after I started rowing and a number of unfortunate things happened resulting in the four of us, plus our coxswain, going in the water. I remember the water being really cold and not being able to stop laughing once we fell in.
Q: What is your most memorable sports moment?
A: I have been lucky enough to have a number of memorable sports moments over the years, however last year at nationals tops them all. None of us knew what to expect from the weekend, but we knew what we were capable of. We had put the time in and trusted one another so much that when race day came last year all we had to do was row. Despite coming up just short of making the Grand Finals, I would have to say the semi-final race from that weekend was my most memorable sports moment.
Q: Where do you see the sport in 10 years?
A: I see the sport of rowing becoming more well-known to younger kids, especially here in the Midwest. There are a few High School programs in this area now, but in 10 years I would love to see a Minnesota high school rowing regatta. That would be cool.
Q: What do you want to do when you are finished with your collegiate career?
A: Once I’m finished rowing as a Gopher I’m planning on taking some time off from the sport. Coaching might be a fun thing to try for a bit in the future although I have learned there really is no experience comparable to those I’ve had as a rower here. Fortunately, rowing is a sport that can easily be done at a recreational level and I would eventually like to join a club team wherever I end up.
Favorite food: Homemade pizza
Favorite drink: COFFEE!
Favorite TV Show: Wheel of Fortune
Favorite sport to compete in besides rowing: Tennis
Favorite thing to do when you aren’t rowing: Run random errands with my roommates
Favorite Vacation spot: Myrtle Beach, SC
Favorite Book: My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult