Virginia's Jennifer Cromwell grew up in a very athletic family and found rowing during high school in Seattle. She has spent the last three seasons stroking the UVa Varsity 8+, and is looking to cap her career in style this spring. The Cavalier senior is the subject of this week's row2k Interview.
row2k - You learned to row during high school in Seattle, how did you get into the sport?
Jennifer Cromwell - I give my older brother, Lance, all the credit for getting into the sport. He graduated from WSU and is a 1st Lieutenant in the Army currently serving in Iraq. While in high school, he and several of his friends joined the local club team (Sammamish Rowing Association). To be very honest, I knew very little about the sport, so I attended his regattas and as I watched the racing, it caught my interest and looked like a lot of fun. I have always been very competitive and was looking for another sport to try, so I decided to give rowing a shot.
row2k - Your father was a former NFL Defensive Back and is now a coach who has had stints in both college and the NFL. How did that impact your interest in sports growing up?
Jennifer Cromwell - My father’s success as an athlete has greatly impacted my interest in sports ever since I was a little girl. I have always looked up to him as a role model and I admire everything that he has accomplished. Both my father and my mother have been such strong influences in my love for sports. My mother was a cheerleader for the L.A. Rams when my father played for them. With their backgrounds, I have naturally grown up in a household that has always been very involved with sports and I have been active in sports my entire life. I have played soccer, basketball, volleyball, cheerleading, and even bowling (OK, I lived in Green Bay, WI for seven years, it is definitely a Midwest sport given the long, cold winters)! Some of my fondest memories are from athletic experiences and I remember I use to beg my parents to stay up late to watch Monday Night Football when I was just a little tyke. So, it is easy to say that sports have always been a huge part of my life.
row2k - What does he think of rowing and is he able to get to many of your races?
Jennifer Cromwell - My father is incredibly supportive of rowing and absolutely loves the sport. He admires the teamwork aspect and loves watching the racing. In addition to his football career, he was an amazing track athlete- setting All America honors at KU in the 600 and 400 yard runs and in the intermediate hurdles- so the racing in rowing is in some ways a lot like a track race; the start, body, and finish are all key components of the race for both sports. Unfortunately, my dad is unable to make it to many of my races through the season because of his work schedule conflicts, though he has been able to make it to our Regionals and NCAAs for the past three years of my collegiate career, which has been very special since they are the two most important races of the year.
row2k - You're now a senior at Virginia, why did you decide to attend school there?
Jennifer Cromwell - I chose to attend the University of Virginia because of its strong rowing program, its prestigious academics, and my coach Kevin Sauer. Coming from Seattle, I knew I was taking a big step attending a school on the east coast, but I figured it was a great time in my life to experience something completely different. I found Coach Sauer's enthusiasm and history very attractive as he has built Virginia Rowing into one of the premier rowing programs amongst the nation in a short span of time (many of the Ivy leagues and other teams have a much longer history). I wanted to be challenged and pushed in both rowing and academics, so coming to such an incredible institution and a strong rowing program with a great coach seemed to be the perfect fit.
row2k - You've raced at NCAA's, Junior Worlds, and U23's. What's been the highlight of your rowing career so far and why?
Jennifer Cromwell - There have been so many memorable races, and there is nothing like international competition. To compete at Junior Worlds for 2 years and U23 Worlds all have been such an honor and exhilarating experiences. However, I do have to admit that the Varsity eight race at the 2009 NCAA Championships was one of my most memorable races so far. Of course I would much rather prefer to have the memory of finishing on top instead of placing second by 0.37 seconds, but it was an unbelievable race that I will never forget.
row2k - How has training for your senior year gone so far? Any personal or team goals for the season you'd like to share?
Jennifer Cromwell - Training for my senior year has been going well. It is great to finally be back on the water after a long winter and it is amazing to think that this is my last year training and rowing at Virginia. My high aspirations and our team goals have given me an extra push this year and made every part of training enjoyable. My teammates are amazing and our focus is intense and I am really excited for our season to begin! We have a lot that we want to achieve this year, especially coming off a close runner-up finish in the Varsity eight and a fourth place team title at the 2009 NCAA Championships.
row2k - What is your favorite thing about the sport?
Jennifer Cromwell - Without a doubt, racing! There is no better feeling than sitting at that start line waiting for the announcer’s start call, when the energy and excitement is high and your adrenaline is flowing, ready to kick into gear. The amount of work that is put into this sport makes you appreciate every second and every stroke since it is such a short race, requiring a lot of endurance but also the ability to sprint. I love the competition and the fact that you have to lay it all out there and give it everything you got because there are no timeouts, no second or third downs, just one shot to race down the course!
row2k - Slightly off topic, but since the Winter Olympics just concluded- if you could win an Olympic gold medal (summer or winter) in any sport other than rowing, what sport and why?
Jennifer Cromwell - Definitely track. My father competed in the Intermediate Hurdles at the 1976 Olympic Trials and I have always been very fond of the sport. I’m not sure which event I would want to focus on, but it would have to be sprints, hurdles, or the heptathlon! I love it all. I enjoy triathlons too!