Rowing team finds academic success

Anneka Bostrom (second from left) and Rachael Schick (middle) pictured with the rest of their boat after winning second at the national championships in Indianapolis, Indiana.//Photo courtesy of WWU Athletics

By Rob Stanley

Demonstrating excellence on and off the water, five Western rowers have received national recognition for their academic accomplishments. The Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association has named five Western rowers CRCA National Scholar-Athletes for maintaining a cumulative 3.5 GPA or higher during the 2019 season.
The rowers who received the CRCA National Scholar-Athlete awards are Maddie Bangasser, Anneka Bostrom, Angie Dexter, Rachael Schick and Karisa Stapp.
This isn’t the first time members of the rowing team have seen success. Continuing the team’s four year streak for the WWU Female Scholar Athlete of the Year, 2019 winner junior Bangasser, rowing from the five seat, maintained a 3.98 GPA during her second year.
“You don’t set out to be recognized,” Bangasser said. “But it’s nice because it’s encouraging, we’re all just doing what we’re going to do anyways because we want to be our best, but if you go too long without being affirmed, then it’s kind of like ‘am I doing a good job?’”
Bangasser, a third-year who begins kinesiology classes in the fall, was also named a Google Cloud Academic All-District 8 At-Large. According to the College Sports Information Directors of America website, the honor is awarded to athletes for “combined performances in the athletic realm and in the classroom.”
John Fuchs, who has been at the helm of Western’s rowing program for the last 21 years, said that the ultimate goal for the team is to perform well competitively and academically.
“I’m not out there recruiting athletes, I’m recruiting students,” Fuchs said.
“They’re there at Western to succeed in the classroom, and if they make the team or not, they’re still going to be there studying. Other than that, they have their act together.”
According to Fuchs, practices are held in the morning to minimize the impact on the athletes’ school schedule. Additionally, Fuchs said he doesn’t push them to the NCAA’s ceiling of 20 hours of practice a week.
The rowing team’s recruiting process is also a factor in the athletes’ academic success. According to Fuchs, potential rowers are registered for classes before tryouts start.
“My first month of rowing and academics, when I was a freshman, was probably the hardest because I didn’t know how to prioritize yet,” junior rower Bostrom said. “Rowing kind of forces you to.”
Bostrom, a member of the Western four that earned second at the 2019 NCAA Championship, finished 2019 with a 3.87 GPA and is double majoring in environmental science and history.
“Everyone’s working really hard in academics,” Bostrom said. “If they’re working that hard, I should work that hard too.”
Bangasser echoed Bostrom’s statements that the rowers push each other academically and athletically, “I think we really motivate each other and show each other what the other is capable of,” she said.
Senior rower Dexter, a fourth-year from Anchorage, Alaska, mentioned that the team sometimes works together on schoolwork after practice in Sam Carver Gymnasium.
“What we all like to do is to share our strengths. It’s a close-knit team, and that’s really the only way we can succeed in competition, and also academically,” Dexter said. “We all hold ourselves to a high standard to maintain both things at the same time, so I think we provide each other as much support as we can.”
Western placed third at this year’s NCAA Division II Rowing Championships in Indianapolis, Indiana. During the grand final race, the Women’s eights placed third, led by Dexter in the stroke seat. The women’s fours finished in second place, adding to the combined point total of 22 over the 3-day event.
“It’s fun to see what you can do, and knowing that your best is possible,” Bangasser said. “Sometimes it’s pretty clear what you have to do to get there, and you just have to decide to do it. You just kind of have to want to do the things you want to do at a high level, and believe that you can do it.”

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