This week's spring collegiate preview interview is with Washington senior Ty Otto. Otto raced in the 2010 Husky V8+ and USA U23 M8+ and talks about rowing at UW, goals for his senior year, and the Huskies rivalry with Cal.
row2k: Why did you decide to attend Washington and what was your athletic background in high school?
Ty Otto: I began rowing during my freshman year at Thomas Jefferson High School in Virginia. I instantly loved the sport so I rowed nearly year round for TJ and the Cerulean Boat Club. My sophomore year of high school, my family moved to Ramstein Air Base in Germany and I thought my rowing career was finished. I ran cross country and track in Europe without much success. But it kept me in shape so that when my family got a surprise reassignment back to the States I was able to jump back into rowing even better than before.
I decided on Washington for a number of reasons. On my official visit I instantly connected with the atmosphere in the Conibear shellhouse-- there was lots of energy, fun, and competition. The guys had diverse interests, experiences, and backgrounds but they were all focused on trying to be the best. I also loved the Northwest vibe, the idea of training next the Space Needle, fishing boats, and the Cascades, and the feel of a big D1 athletic department.
row2k: Last year you were in the UW V8+ and the USA U23 M8+, both winning silver at their respective championship, which race would you like to have back and why?
Ty Otto: The IRA hands down. Losing by a small fraction of a second to our biggest rival was an extremely unsatisfying end to an otherwise undefeated season. I have no doubt that everyone in our Husky crew laid it all out there, but I would love to have another shot at those last 300 meters because truly every little bit counted. It's hard not to replay and dissect that race in your mind, but now we're only focused on June 4, 2011.
I'm proud of our accomplishments over in Belarus at U23s. We all had our sights set on gold, but as a team we did a good job making some last minute adaptations and fighting every step down the race course.
row2k: What was the most important thing you learned from 2010 that you will use to help you and your crews succeed in 2011?
Ty Otto: Its not enough to put yourself in a position where you are capable of winning. You must train so hard that you eliminate the possibility of losing. You have to keep up the energy and the competition all year so that you have no doubt going into spring that you're prepared to go all the way.
row2k: What is the current Washington/Cal rivalry like from the inside?
Ty Otto: Its intense. There's lots of history and lots of pride on the line. Having a fierce rivalry like that is a good motivator in our training; we know they're working hard down in Berkeley and that we have to try and go harder. To me, the Washington-Cal duel is the most important and emotional race in our regular season. Its more than just some stale, historic matchup: as long as I've been in collegiate rowing, both our programs have been IRA medal contenders so we can always count on it being a challenging, hard-fought, and rewarding battle. It was interesting getting to befriend some of the Cal guys through the U23 team this summer and realizing that we share much in common. But the fact remains that no loss stings as much as a loss to Cal, and any victory over the Bears is that much sweeter.
row2k: How has this season gone so far and what are your goals for the spring?
Ty Otto: We haven't done a lot of racing. We had a good showing at Head of the Charles, winning the Champ Eight (and coming ever so close to breaking Coach Callahan's decade old course record) and we got some intense intra-squad competition at the Head of the Lake here in Seattle. Two of our teammates, Anthony Jacob and Conlin McCabe, were competing for Canada at Karapiro and they bring a lot to the program so its good to have them back around the shellhouse. Right now we're doing a lot of work in pairs, which gives us a good technical and competitive foundation for the spring.
When it comes to the spring season, winning the IRA is the ultimate goal. Last year it was kind of an obsession, and I think it will be the same this year too. We have a fairly short schedule this year, so we're going to have to make sure we move into spring at full speed since we won't have too many races to adapt. But we have a lot of hard work and talent around the boathouse so I have full faith.
row2k: What do you like most about the sport of rowing?
Ty Otto: You make good friends and share a lot of fun moments. It also gives you something very simple and pure to focus on: making yourself better and pushing yourself harder. And the feeling of getting a pair moving fast through flat water on Lake Washington as the sun comes up behind Mount Rainier is pretty awesome, too.
row2k: What are you studying and do you have any plans for after graduation?
Ty Otto: I started out as a physics major, but since Washington has such diverse course offerings I would always try out other subjects for fun. Last year, I realized that I really enjoyed political science, so I am now pursuing a double major: physics and poli-sci. My post-graduation plans aren't nailed down yet, but if I could get a job in international relations or science-related policy issues, I'd be pretty happy.