This week's row2k Interview is with Central Oklahoma senior Bailee Thomas. We talk with Thomas about competing in both track and rowing this year, as well as winning NCAAs last season.
row2k - You came to rowing after running track for two years a UCO, tell us about that.
Bailee Thomas - I originally came to UCO to run track. I competed on the team for my first two years in the heptathlon, 400m hurdles, and the 4x400m relay. After my sophomore year I decided my body needed a break from track, but I hated the idea that I wouldn’t be an athlete anymore. I had heard that I would not need any prior rowing experience in order to walk-on to the rowing team, so I decided to talk to the coach and see if I could give it a try. My first year on the team I raced primarily in the open 4 and was selected as one of the spares for nationals. My second year I was able to work my way into the varsity 8 where I was a part of the national championship team.
row2k - You’re now a fifth year and are competing in both track and rowing this year. How did you come to that decision?
Bailee Thomas - I decided to come back to UCO for one more year because I didn’t want to leave my last year of athletic eligibility unused. We had a great group of girls returning to the rowing team and I saw the potential to have another very successful year. While I knew rowing would be my primary focus, I still had a passion for track & field that I saw an opportunity to get back to. I also knew I was going to have a relatively light class load that would allow me to have enough time to practice both.
Thomas racing track
row2k - What’s a typical day like for you this year and how do you manage your time between rowing, track, and school?
Bailee Thomas - It’s definitely taken some work to figure out how to manage my time in each sport and in the classroom without letting my performance suffer. However, my coaches have been super supportive and helped me figure out a schedule that will allow me to get in some good work each day while also having enough time to recover.
Although it varies from day-to-day, the majority of my weekdays start out with rowing practice at 6:00 am, classwork from 9:00-1:00, track practice at 1:00 and weights at 3:00. After about 4:00 pm is when I can get any extra studying done and work on recovering enough to do it again the next day.
row2k - What do you like most about the sport of rowing?
Bailee Thomas - Rowing is one of the most physically demanding and mentally challenging things I've ever done. That's what I love about it. Whether it's a tough erg workout or steady state work in the boat, I love the feeling of knowing you just crushed a practice. I love being a part of a group of girls who wake up super early every morning and just work hard. We all work to achieve the same goal and know what it takes to make it happen. I think all the hard work we go through together brings us closer as a team and it's so nice to have that support system. When all that hard work finally pays off, the feeling is absolutely incredible.
row2k - What has been your most memorable race and why?
Bailee Thomas - The most memorable race I’ve had was definitely the grand final for the 2019 NCAA Championship. It was my first time racing at nationals and it was such a surreal feeling crossing the finish line as national champions. Our whole team had been working so hard all season to accomplish that one goal and it was so exciting to know we had finally got it done.
Bailee (3rd from L) with UCO V8+ at 2019 NCAAs
row2k - In addition to winning NCAAs last year, you won the Elite 90 award for rowing. What is the criteria for that award and how did you find out you had won?
Bailee Thomas - The Elite 90 award is given to the rower in each division with the highest GPA competing at the national championship. I found out I got the award at the banquet that is put on right before races began at NCAA's. I was super excited to win the award because I had worked so hard to maintain a 4.0 GPA throughout my four years at UCO and it was nice to be recognized for that. I think it's such a cool award to have given out each year because it allows academic achievement to be shown off alongside athletic success.
row2k - What are you studying at Central Oklahoma and do you have any plans for after graduation?
Bailee Thomas - I am double majoring in forensic science and psychology with a minor in sociology. As of right now I don't have anything lined up after I graduate in May, but I would like to find a job at a crime scene unit somewhere. Looking long-term, I hope to have a career working in crime scene investigation, but I am also still considering a few other forensic science related jobs.