This week row2k features an interview with Stanford Junior rower Kay Rusher. Rusher comes from a rowing family: both parents were Olympians and her sister is a current teammate, while her mother raced with her current coach Yaz Farooq.
row2k - You come from a rowing family, what is the history there and how did you get your start in rowing?
Kay Rusher - Both my parents rowed, though I didn't really think anything of it when I was young. I knew they were successful in the sport, but my old high school didn't have a rowing team and I was more of a volleyball player there. Then I went to boarding school where we were required to play three sports, so I decided to give rowing a shot since my parents were pretty good. I started rowing during the spring of my sophomore year. I've always been a sailor and I just love being on the water and I like the workout aspect of the sport. I kept improving and ended up deciding to row in college.
row2k - How did you find your way to Stanford?
Kay Rusher - Our coach Yaz Farooq and my mom are old friends, and I remember Yaz sending her an email when I was about 12 saying, "Hi, how are you doing and let me know how tall the girls are getting because I would love to have them come row for me someday at Stanford."
I had no idea about Stanford at the time other than it was in California and it was warm so I always had this idea in the back of my head that I wanted to go there. Then when I started rowing and it became more of a realistic aspiration, I reached out to Yaz and came out for a visit and just fell in love with the campus.
row2k - Your sister is a freshman on the team this year, what's it like have a sibling on the team?
Kay Rusher - It's great, we were on the same team in high school and actually in the same boat my senior year. It's really fun and we're both very supportive of each other as athletes. I think we make each other better and it's just nice to have family here.
row2k - What do you like most about the sport of rowing?
Kay Rusher - For me it's about the team. It's just fun to be competitive where you are not just pulling for yourself but for the people around you as well. It's just this huge team sport that you don't really get in any other type of competition.
row2k - What has been your most memorable race so far and why?
Kay Rusher - Pac-12s last year was great. It was memorable because we won, but it was exciting for me because I knew that we could win, we just had to take the step forward and go for it. Even though we weren't leading the entire race, I just knew that we were going to pull ahead. It was cool to have that affirmation and to have the whole boat feeling it together. It was definitely the culmination to our season.
Then to have the team do well (and win the first Pac-12 team title for Stanford) was awesome and I would say that all started the previous season when we didn't do as well. I was frustrated that the team had put in so much work and didn't get the result we were looking for. We were able to figure out areas to improve on and for us to win Pac-12s just confirmed that everyone had taken that step and made the changes. Seeing that happen from the top to the bottom of the team had not happened before and I think it helped to change the culture of the team for the better.
row2k - How has this season gone and what are your goals for spring?
Kay Rusher - This season has been going really well. I think with the success of last year, everyone is feeling the pressure of doing just as well or better this year. I think everyone is hungry to go faster. People are just throwing themselves into the training and everyone is improving which has been exciting to watch. We're not always the fastest team in the fall, so for us to find some speed this year was good. We were in some fast lineups at winter camp, and it made me excited for the season. I hope that we can be fast throughout the team and finish even better than last year.
row2k - What are some of your interests away from the boathouse?
Kay Rusher - I'm a biomechanical engineering major and right now I'm in a shop class, which is very fun as we are learning how to use all the tools and are building several things throughout the quarter. It's something new that I've been getting in to and it's fun.
My family has always been in to sailing back in Wisconsin, so every summer I teach sailing to some of the younger kids on the lake. It's a great summer job and it allows me and my sister to train all summer. We have a pair and we row pretty much every day and even race a little bit. It's a great way to combine training and working in a gorgeous setting.
row2k - Do you have any plans for after college yet?
Kay Rusher - I'm not sure yet. I'm considering business school or co-terming here at Stanford. Co-terming is basically a fifth year masters degree program and you can get a masters degree in one year after you finish your undergrad in a different concentration than what your major was, it's great.