row2k wraps up our spring preview features with an interview with Kansas senior Bailey Blood. We chat with Blood on finding the sport in college and the challenges of training and competing with a hearing impairment.
row2k - You started rowing as a novice at Kansas, what was your athletic background prior to enrolling in college?
Bailey Blood - In high school, I played volleyball and basketball, and ran track. Prior to rowing at Kansas, I ran track for a year at the University of Sioux Falls-a division II school in South Dakota.
row2k - How did you start rowing and what was your novice year like?
Bailey Blood - While in high school, I came to KU for a recruiting visit for rowing. While on the visit, I fell in love with the atmosphere at the boathouse; the idea of working side by side with so many strong women each day thrilled me. But, I knew that I would regret it if I didn't give collegiate track and field a try. I gave Coach Carrie a call that June after deciding to transfer from the University of Sioux Falls to let her know I was interested in rowing.
The beginning of my novice year was tough; I spent my first couple of months trying to get away with only using my arms-which I still catch myself doing every once in a while. It wasn't until winter training that I really found my groove. I ended up racing in the fours that spring and really connected with the two other novices in my boat, Lilly Stewart and Peyton Anderson. Under Coach Carrie's direction, we learned so much but most importantly, we learned to fall in love with the sport. We had some really exciting wins and we were even named Big 12 Boat of the Week once that season. Lilly, Peyton and I love to reminisce and talk about that season and the way it created an unbreakable bond between us.
row2k - You have a hearing impairment, how has that impacted your rowing career?
Bailey Blood - Having a hearing impairment has taught me to put much of my focus on 'boat feel.' Because I'm unable to hear the clicking of the oars as they're being feathered or the other rowers moving up their slide or even my coxswain at times, I have to rely on my other senses. Boat feel is the way the boat moves under you; it's the feeling of everyone moving up the slide and hitting the body positions in sync; it's the oars locking on together and the suspension throughout the stroke; it's the unified swing that slightly lifts the bow out of the water. It gives me chills just thinking about it.
Thankfully, my hearing impairment hasn't stopped me from having a successful career. We, of course, have had to make some modifications though. When I'm on the water, my coxswain always has to be the loudest. When the coxswain or coaches are asking me to make changes, they must first get my attention and wait until I look at them, so that I know they're talking to me and I can read their lips.
row2k - What has been your most memorable race and why?
Bailey Blood - One of my most memorable races was at the Knecht Cup in 2016. It was one of the first races of my novice year, and I was sitting in stroke seat and I was so nervous. That day in New Jersey, it was incredibly foggy and it was sleeting. Because of the rain and wind, I didn't hear the official call the start and I didn't see the flag either. The rower behind me, Dewey, frantically shouted, "Uhh, go!" as the other boats began to take off. We took off a few seconds behind, but still ended up winning. Thankfully, once we got going, it was an awesome race. Everyone from that lineup still loves to joke about it.
row2k - What do you like most about the sport of rowing?
Bailey Blood - Rowing has changed everything I thought I knew about what it means to be "mentally tough". I never imagined that I would be able to push myself this hard. Really, I sometimes wish someone would have warned me about what I was signing up for. I have come to realize I am capable of much more than I ever imagined. Also, KU Rowing has been the support system that I never knew I needed; my coaches have been incredible mentors and role models, and my teammates are my very best friends. I am thankful for the strength and virtues rowing has given me, and more than that, I am endlessly grateful for the relationships I've built along the way.
row2k - How has this season gone so far and what are your goals for the spring for yourself and the team?
Bailey Blood - This season feels very different from past seasons. This summer two new coaches came to the program and they have been awesome additions. It seems as if each class has stepped up in their own unique way; from our novice, who have fearlessly jumped right in and shown that they are ready to set a new program standard; to us seniors, who have adopted a new training plan and worked to set the stage for years to come by creating a culture that is open to and ready for change.
We had our first race at the Cooper Sprints (3/24) and were pleased with the results. We inched closer toward programs that we've had our eyes on. In the Midwest, we have had a long winter, and with more water time, we're hoping to close those gaps even further.
row2k - What are you studying at Kansas, and do you have any plans yet for after university?
Bailey Blood - I am majoring in communication studies with a minor in journalism. Someday, I hope to work in the university setting; perhaps either coaching or as a professor of communication studies.