Written by Student Assistant Sarah Cornell-Maier
TACOMA, Wash. – The Pacific Lutheran University women's rowing team dove into training after its first competition of the spring, preparing to head to Oregon for the Hagg Lake Invitational, the Lutes' first regatta against Northwest Conference rivals.
There are no doubts of the athleticism on the team. In the Lutes' first regatta of the spring, the PLU Invitational, the Lutes 1V 8+ boat sped past the Division 1 Seattle University Redhawks by 17 seconds. This performance earned the boat the first NWC Crew of the Week Award of the spring season and catapulting the boat to eighth in the initial CRCA/USRowing Coaches' Poll of 2017.
The women's rowing team has a diverse group of athletes with students from seven different states along with a few multi-sport athletes. despite the varying backgrounds, the Lutes are able to bring their different experiences together into one unified team.
One of these multi-sport athletes is sophomore Sarah Stafford. Stafford has been a member of both the women's rowing team and the women's swimming team since her freshman year, racing on the 1V 8+ boat last weekend that won NWC Crew of the Week.
The Colorado Springs, Colorado native swam for all four years of high school, going to state each year.
"I came to PLU planning on swimming and always had an interest in rowing, but never thought that I would do it at the collegiate level or be a multi-sport athlete in college." said Stafford.
After seeing flyers for the rowing team, and attending the interest meeting in the fall of her freshman year, Stafford met with Head Coach Andy Foltz to see whether or not combining the two sports would work out.
"After talking with Coach Andy and realizing that it would be possible to swim and row, I came out for a couple fall practices and loved it."
While balancing two sports as well as course work may seem like a daunting task, Stafford has developed a system to make it all work.
"Professors are understanding and willing to meet with me outside of their office hours to ensure that I am caught up," she said. "The athletic department at PLU also stresses the importance of being a student first and athlete second, meaning that I am always surrounded by individuals who highly value academics."
Having multiple sets of teammates is another bonus that Stafford has experienced. "I feel very fortunate to be a part of two teams on campus that are each like second families to me," she said. "This year, part of the team and Coach Andy came out to one of our home swim meets to cheer the team on which really showed their support system. It would be difficult to make the transitions between training schedules and team cultures without their support."
Stafford is one of two multi-sport athletes on the rowing team, joined by fellow swimmer senior Jessica Stenberg.
Now that the two of them have fully transitioned between teams and seasons, the Lutes are looking to capitalize on the overall fitness of the team going into Saturday's competition. The Lutes begin the day down in Forest Grove, Oregon at 9:45 with the varsity 8+ taking on NWC rival Pacific University. The Lutes will compete in eight total races, fielding boats in 1V8+, 2V8+, 3V8+, 1V4+, and Novice 4+ races against Pacific, Lewis & Clark College and the University of Oregon's club team.