Recent women’s rowing graduate Katya Hewitt was recognized on Tuesday, June 14, as a Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association National Scholar Athlete with a 3.66 GPA. Hewitt received the same honor in 2015 when she achieved a 3.59 GPA.
Hewitt was shocked to discover she had been named to the coaches association Pocock Division II All-American team. Upon hearing she was the 20th First-Team rowing All-American in Western’s history, Hewitt became ecstatic.
“I didn’t even know I was up for getting this award,” Hewitt said. “I was really surprised to say the least. And then of course I had to go and look it up and figure out what it was.”
In order to be considered for the All-America team, a student-athlete must have participated in at least 75 percent of all races during the season and rowed at least 75 percent of the season’s races in a varsity boat according to the coaches association. Also taken into account is the strength of the team’s schedule, season record, coaches’ comments, and 2,000 meter erg score – a measurement on a machine that judges how quickly a rower can row 2,000 meters.
“It shows a caliber of athlete and student that Western rowing produces,” junior rower Emily Bartlett said. “I think that Katya as a role model is showing everybody outside of the Western community what is possible for Western rowing. I think that’s exciting and motivating for the rest of us.”
As a sophomore in 2013, Hewitt had no plans to do collegiate athletics. Then one day, Hewitt became lost while searching for the kinesiology office in the Carver Gymnasium. Eventually, women’s rowing head coach John Fuchs found Hewitt and gave her directions.
He also gave her an offer to join the rowing team.
Initially, Hewitt declined. She wasn’t wild about the early morning practices and had no prior experience with the sport. A month or two later, Hewitt quit her job. Wanting to get involved in an extracurricular, she emailed Fuchs asking if there was still a spot open on the team. He told her to be at practice at 5 a.m. the next day.
“I showed up and rode in the launch with him and ever since then I just started doing it,” Hewitt said.
Hewitt joined the team as a novice and ended up earning a spot with the Varsity 4 boat by the end of the season.
“A lot of the technical side of rowing was very fluid for her,” Bartlett said.
Bartlett rowed in the stroke seat, directly in front of the coxswain, alongside Hewitt in the Varsity 8 boat during Hewitt’s senior year. Together, they set the pace for the entire boat. Everyone else had to either look at Bartlett’s port oar or Hewitt’s starboard oar and copy their movements as precisely as possible.
“She was just a strong kid,” Fuchs said.“Smart, easy to get along with, [and a] good competitor right away.”
Her teammates also recognized her dedication to school.
“She spends all her time studying in the library when she’s not rowing,” Bartlett said.
Along with excelling in academia and athletics, Hewitt proved to be an outstanding role model as a captain of the team her senior year. After witnessing rowers in past seasons struggling to intermix, Hewitt hoped to smooth the lines between all teammates.
“This year, I really wanted everyone to be friends,” Hewitt said.
“I feel like I learned a lot about leadership. There’s aspects of instructing people on how to do things or what to do, but I think more than that, it’s about connecting with everyone on your team and making sure everyone feels welcome and supported and wants to be a part of that collective.”
She facilitated this by carpooling with novices to practice, having them stay at her house over spring break and encouraging teammates to reach out to those they hadn’t spoken with in a while.
Despite the challenges that arose from frequent competition between boats, teammates socialized outside of practice more than ever. All the returning rowers knew the novices and were friends with them.
“I feel like I learned a lot about leadership,” Hewitt said. “There’s aspects of instructing people on how to do things or what to do, but I think more than that, it’s about connecting with everyone on your team and making sure everyone feels welcome and supported and wants to be a part of that collective.”
Hewitt’s drive for inclusion, coupled with her infectious personality added to the team’s cohesion, especially within the V8 boat.
“[Hewitt] brought lots of laughing to the team as the teammate she is, whether it’s her jokes or someone else’s. She was always laughing about something or smiling about something. It was a good feeling to have in a boathouse at five in the morning,” said teammate Jenny Chang. Chang rowed with Hewitt for three years.
Chang loved being in the boat with Hewitt. She trusted Hewitt to do what needed to be done and knew she would provide the power to make the boat run its course.
“[Hewitt] is a really great, calm person on the team. Everyone looks up to her. She was really easy to work with,” Bartlett said.
Hewitt has come a long way since being a novice.
“Rowing in general teaches you so much about work ethic and how to work hard,” Hewitt said. “Looking back on it, I don’t know if I had ever worked very hard at anything, especially athletics. It’s such a stark contrast between what I thought was difficult going in, and now what I think is difficult.”
After graduating from Western in June with a degree in kinesiology pre-med, Hewitt said she already misses being on the water. Although she won’t compete at the Division II level again, Master’s rowing for those 21 and up may be in her future.
“I think the beautiful thing about rowing is that even though you may feel like you’re going to die by the time you get to the 500-meter mark out of 2000, you have seven other people that are doing it with you,” Hewitt said. “It’s about individually pushing yourself and going as far as you can, but you have to do that perfectly together with other people.”