This week's row2k Interview is with Georgetown openweight senior rower Cate O'Leary, who found the sport from a circus background and recently won the Henley Women's Regatta as a member of the University of London.
row2k - You started rowing as a novice at Georgetown, what was your athletic background prior to enrolling in college?
Cate O'Leary - Before discovering rowing at Georgetown, I performed as an aerialist at Circus Juventas, a local circus arts school in Minnesota. A bit of a nontraditional background, but I'd say my day-to-day resembled that of a dancer - taking classes, student coaching, and preparing for our annual theatrical production.
row2k - How did you start rowing and what was your novice year like?
O'Leary - I knew that leaving my circus family would be challenging, both emotionally and physically. Towards the end of my senior year of high school, I started looking through the Georgetown Athletics site, and the GU women's rowing program caught my eye. I guessed that the sport would suit someone of my build, so I emailed the head coach. Once I got to campus, I formally tried out for the team. I managed to learn how to erg effectively early on and ultimately ended up competing in the Varsity 8+ that spring.
That year was an undeniable whirlwind - the concept of pushing yourself to the limit was brand new to me! The early mornings were also a bit of a shock to the system, but seeing the sunrise over the Potomac each day made everything worth it. I ended up finding some of my best friends at Georgetown on the team, and that for me continues to be the most fulfilling part.
row2k - You spent some time studying and rowing abroad, tell us a bit about that experience.
O'Leary - I loved every second of studying abroad in London. I was fortunate enough to join the University of London Boat Club for the year, and I improved exponentially. I competed across the UK alongside top-tier athletes in regattas I never thought I would have the opportunity to race in - for example, I was offered a spot in the UL boat entered in the Academic 4- at Henley Women's Regatta, and we won the event on my birthday!
row2k - What has been your most memorable race and why?
O'Leary - Racing in the Intermediate Women's 4+ at BUCS Regatta in May. Each rower in our boat had raced several times over the previous two days in different events, so we were all exhausted. We hadn't gotten the chance to practice in the lineup before racing, but somehow everything came together perfectly. We cruised through the time trial, and then snagged a spot in the A final during the semis. Our crew was given an outside lane in the final, so the other boats couldn't see us creeping past them to ultimately win gold.
O'Leary in 3-seat at HOCR
row2k - What do you like most about the sport of rowing?
O'Leary - Rowing constantly proves to me that I am capable of more than I can imagine, especially because I am always surrounded by teammates I trust and admire. I specifically remember testing my 5k in London - I had agreed to rate it at the same pace as one of my teammates. There were times during that piece when the only thing carrying me through was knowing that the girl sitting next to me was working just as hard. I ended up PR'ing on that 5k, but I would not have been able to do it alone.
row2k - How has this season gone so far and what are your goals for the spring for yourself and the team?
O'Leary - As a team, there has been massive progress from the beginning of the fall to now. We've had strong showings across the openweight and lightweight programs at the Head of the Charles and Head of the Schuylkill. The openweight team will be competing at more regattas this spring than in previous years, so I can only imagine the things we will accomplish between now and the Patriot League Championships in May.
row2k - What are you studying at Georgetown, and do you have any plans yet for after university?
O'Leary - I will graduate with a major in International Economics and a minor in French. This summer, I will start as an investment banking analyst in New York.