Junior rower Chloe Burns sits in stroke seat V8, the most prestigious seat in the entire boat for the women’s rowing team. With zero rowing experience coming into college, Burns tried out for the crew team her freshman year, but did not make the cut.
The assistant coach at the time told her that her athletic ability was not enough to make up for her lack of size.
Standing at 5 feet 7 inches tall, Burns does not have the typical stature most rowers have. The taller the crew member is, the longer stroke they typically have. This helps rowers pull the boat at a much faster rate.
“What I saw in Chloe was a lot of tenacity and fight and a take-charge attitude.”
Courtney Moeller, assistant coach
Burns decided to tryout for the team again as a sophomore, hoping her size wouldn’t hold her back for a consecutive year.
“I did it [try out again] as a joke, but midway through I was like, ‘I wanna take this a little more seriously.’ Then, a new assistant coach that year had more faith in me and let me on,” Burns said.
While the previous assistant coach saw only a lack of size, the new assistant rowing coach, Courtney Moeller, saw much more than that.
“She doesn’t fit the typical physique of what you think a rower should be, but I saw a lot more in her that can’t be taught,” Moeller said.
Moeller is an alumna and former rower at Western. She said Burns’ physique does not affect her, because her work ethic makes up for her size.
“What I saw in Chloe was a lot of tenacity and fight and a take-charge attitude,” Moeller said. “The effort and level of intensity [she has], even if she was 6 feet tall, I couldn’t teach that.”
Burns made the team her sophomore year, and her hard-working nature pushed her to the front of the boat, taking over stroke seat V8 her junior year.
“I sit at the front of the boat, facing the coxswain, which is a weird position for me. I set the pace, and need to make a lot of decisions everyone has to follow,” Burns said.
The success Burns has experienced in her short time with crew is because of her need to always improve, senior and teammate Kia Parrish-Haim said.
“[Burns’] ability to never be satisfied with ‘good enough.’ She’s always trying to push herself,” Parrish-Haim said. “She might have the fastest time on the team, but she wants to have a faster time than her time.”
Burns improving her time constantly is not only good for her, but also pushes the team to improve as well, Moeller said.
“She’s not bragging about it or gloating about it, but she’s setting the bar high,” Moeller said. “Everyone knows that’s the goal: To get as close to Chloe as you can.”
Burns and the rest of the crew team have until the end of the month to prepare for the NCAA Championships, on Friday, May 26, in West Windsor, New Jersey, on Lake Mercer.