This week row2k features Matt White, a senior captain on Cornell's Lightweight squad. When Matt isn't rowing, studying, or competing in Ironmans, he's completing the Rubik's Cube in under 30 seconds.
row2k - You walked on at Cornell as a freshmen, what was your athletic background prior to picking up rowing?
Matt White - I swam competitively for eight years before coming to college and doubled up with water polo for six of those years. I was never particularly gifted in either, but it definitely kept me active and offered a competitive release outside of academics. Additionally, I started running sprint and Olympic triathlons with my father over the summer when I was 13. I still try to race triathlons whenever my schedule allows for it, and I’ve run a full distance Ironman every summer since coming to Cornell.
row2k - How did you end up on the lightweight rowing team?
Matt White - I knew I wanted to continue athletics in college, but was burnt out on swimming by the time I got to Cornell. I had heard about rowing through a friend in high school and figured that my body type was close enough to a typical lightweight. In preparation for trying to make the team I found a local club near my high school that let me practice with their novice program for a couple weeks. At the time I was 18 and preparing to head off to college while also getting destroyed by seventh and eighth graders in a quad. It was a laughably humbling experience.
row2k - You’re a senior now and a captain, what’s one of the most important things you’ve learned from the sport?
Matt White - I think a lot of people get caught up in the idea that being a great athlete requires perfect genetics, but rowing has consistently shown me otherwise. While natural athleticism definitely plays a role, I’ve never seen that triumph over long term consistent effort and preparation. Forcing myself into habits that emphasize long term development has helped me as both a student and an athlete, and I owe that entirely to rowing.
row2k - You have some skill with the Rubik’s cube, how did that come about?
Matt White - I grew up in the quirky public high school culture of Portland, OR. My friends spent a lot of time looking for things to get competitive with, and for us the cube was just another way we could try to beat each other. Despite the common misconception that the Rubik’s cube is a test of intelligence, it is actually just a skill that can be learned and improved upon like anything else. It’s been a lot of fun competing in something so offbeat, and since I picked it up I’ve competed at two Rubik’s cube speed solving national championships and various smaller competitions.
row2k - Are there any random connections between solving the Rubik’s cube and rowing an eight?
Matt White - As weird as it sounds I would actually say it has helped in rowing a lot. I’ve spent a lot of time looking at data for how types, durations, and frequencies of practice with the Rubik’s cube correlate with my performance, and although the context in rowing is totally different, the methods of analysis are more or less the same.
row2k - What’s your favorite aspect of rowing?
Matt White - I am lucky to have found a group of people I can connect with and who care so deeply about sacrificing their time in the pursuit of building a successful program and leaving a legacy. Living, practicing, and racing with these guys has been a humbling experience, but also one that pushes me to test my limits. If it were not for the support that our team culture provides, I have no doubt I would not have been able to achieve what I have athletically, academically, and professionally.
row2k - What are you studying at Cornell and do you have any plans for after graduation?
Matt White - I will graduate with a degree in Computer Science, and I have accepted a job in NYC with a firm that engineers financial market software.
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