row2k wraps our series of spring collegiate preview features with an interview with Virginia senior oarsman Jonathan Furlong. Furlong is a fifth year senior who took off last year to make the USA U23 squad and is now back back in the boat for UVa for one last run.
row2k - How did you get your start in rowing and why did you decide to row at Virginia?
Jonathan Furlong - I started rowing in high school at the Hun School of Princeton, under coach Geoff Evans, who actually rowed at UVA as well. When I was making my college decision, I knew I wanted to row at a program where I felt like I could really contribute, and UVA just felt like a good fit all around.
row2k - You took last season off to train for the USA U23 squad. What was your decision making process in taking the year off?
Jonathan Furlong - My third year, I was accepted into a 5-year program to get my master's in Exercise Physiology. We expected to have a strong 2011, but we were going to lose a strong graduating class, and 2012 was expected to be a bit of a rebuilding year, before another strong year in 2013. We had also started making plans for another Henley trip in 2013, so I obviously didn't want to miss out on a chance to go back.
row2k - In your opinion, what is unique about rowing for Virginia?
Jonathan Furlong - I think Frank has created an environment that really supports individual development, at every level. We get a wide range of athletes in the novice class each year, but regardless of where guys start, the coaches really work to help every achieve their maximum potential.
row2k - You raced as the USA U23 LM1x in 2012, tell us about that experience.
Jonathan Furlong - Despite a complete lack of sculling race experience (Trials was my first ever sculling race), I felt really confident before leaving for Worlds. I was consistently hitting target splits projecting times between 7:00-7:12, which would typically put you in the A-final. But with the high training volume, necessary speed work, and dietary weight management, I was right on the edge of over-training. Once I got to Trakai, I think the combined effects of making weight, jet lag, and the stress of racing just pushed me over that edge (which was later confirmed when I had some blood work done after returning home). During the few practices we had there, my splits were pretty inconsistent and I noticed some dramatic changes in my normal heart rates. When it came to racing, I felt okay physically, but I simply couldn't produce anywhere close to the splits I was used to seeing. I think I went somewhere around 7:48 with a max effort in pretty neutral conditions in my rep, which I could normally do at about SR 24. So the racing experience itself was a huge disappointment.
Despite the disappointment, I'd still say the whole journey was the most rewarding experience of my life. I set a goal to qualify for U23's in the LM1x a full year before, and I accomplished that. I learned what it means to train at an elite level, even while maintaining a full course load. I honestly believe I put every ounce of mental, physical, and spiritual energy into my training, so even though I didn't get the results I was hoping for, I'm still very proud of what I achieved.
row2k - What do you like most about the sport of rowing?
Jonathan Furlong - I think the training necessary for rowing really promotes personal growth, not just as a rower or an athlete, but as a whole person.
row2k - What has been your most memorable race so far and why?
Jonathan Furlong - Winning ACRAs my third year. After finishing well behind Michigan at Dad Vails, everyone in the boat was frustrated and there was definitely some internal conflict. But we worked through that, and channeled all of that energy into our training and racing, and finally delivered the type of race we all knew we were capable of, which resulted in a huge win for the program.
row2k - What are you studying at Virginia and do you have any plans yet for after college?
Jonathan Furlong - I'm finishing up my Master's in Exercise Physiology now, but I actually want to follow in my parents' footsteps and go into Equine Veterinary Medicine. I still need to finish up some of the pre-req courses, so I'm planning on training almost full-time while getting that work done. So right now I'm still just applying to schools so I can figure out where I'll be doing that.