Everyone who has rowed at the University of Washington shares common bonds. Bonds built during grueling workouts and early morning practices, traveling to regattas, studying for exams and winning championships. These are bonds that can last a lifetime.
Former Washington rowers are active in businesses worldwide and contribute to their communities at all levels. Several have gone onto race – and win – on the international stage.
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For many competitive athletes, the trophy is the focus and the ultimate indicator of success. For athletes like Melissa Calkins, cultivating relationships with her teammates proved as rewarding as collecting wins.
With an impressive and varied career spanning the 1996-’99 seasons, she started out as a freshman on the UW men’s team. It was only a matter of weeks before she was brought over to the varsity team to fill the team’s lack of experienced coxswains.
In that first year, she coxed the Men’s Varsity 4 to a Pac-10 championship. She casually shares, “The following year, I coxed the men’s JV boat, and we were undefeated and helped sweep the 1997 IRAs. We went on to race at Henley that year, and raced in the Temple Cup.” Her talent was noticed and coveted by the women’s team and in the fall of ’97, she started coxing for the women’s team and coach Jan Harville. She lead that varsity boat to its second NCAA Championship win.
Even with all these (and more) notable victories under her belt, Melissa maintains a more lasting love for the program itself and the teammates she befriended. “I loved the sense of community rowing brought me, and the life-long friendships it fosters. Even after leaving the UW, you always feel welcome back at the boathouse by your old teammates and coaches.” Recently, she has been a part of a team of former Husky and rower women for the Pacific Northwest Ragnar relay. Teams of twelve women race 200 miles from the U.S. Canadian border to Langley, Washington. “Even after 20 years from leaving the UW boathouse, it seems as is very little time has passed,” Melissa says.
It’s a deep fondness for a sport or school that inspires alumni to donate their time and money; a passion that Melissa has in droves.
“I am incredibly grateful for my time on the crew and the experience it gave me when I was at the UW. I feel that being a part of both the men’s and women’s teams has shaped me as a person; it cultivated self-confidence, determination, and taught me what it means to be part of a team,” she says. “One of the things I love about rowing is that it truly is a team sport, and every seat is important. Even if you feel like you are not a contender for a spot in the Varsity 8, work every day as if you are, as you can only help push the team higher.”
With that knowledge of the value of teamwork, Melissa graciously decided to contribute to the Husky Reels Project. A program implemented by UW Libraries Special Collections, the Husky Reels Project aims to raise money for the salvaging and publishing of vintage UW sports film reels dating back to the 1920’s. With a goal of $1.5 million, Husky Reels received donations that will be directed toward the damage assessment, preservation, cataloging and online publication of over 80 years of Husky athletics footage, which will otherwise be lost.
In addition, Melissa has generously donated to the rowing program she remembers so fondly. “I feel that it is important for me to help future generations of Huskies go through this amazing program, and donating to this program is a way for me to give back.”
As a star alumna and now donor of the UW rowing program, Melissa says, “I would remind athletes that to be part of the Husky Crew is to be part of an amazing legacy, so work hard, enjoy it, and make us proud! Go Huskies!”
Life Lessons Learned in a Rowing Shell
Olympians Hana Dariusova and Sabina Telenska reflect on their time rowing for the University of Washington.
Conibear Shellhouse has become a home away from home for hundreds of international rowers. Leaving almost no continent untouched, the unmistakable on-the-water prowess of the Husky crew combined with the immediate sense of family on the team attracts rowers and coxswains alike.
From the Czech Republic, Sabina Telenska, ‘00, and Hana Dariusova, ‘95, were moved by the women on the team when they rowed during Opening Day in 1991.
“You could see the motivation,” said Washington alumna Sabina Telenska, reflecting on the first time she met the team. “It was contagious; it was like a movie.”
Hana came to the University of Washington during the winter of 1992, and in the fall of 1996, Sabina moved to Washington as well from the Czech Republic, with nearly 10 years of rowing experience under her belt.
Hana started rowing in 1985 with SK Smíchov, placed third in the Junior World Championships 1990(8+), won silver and gold in 1991(4x, 8+). Sabina began rowing in 1986 with the ČVK Praha rowing club where she won silver and gold at the Junior World Championships in 1991(4x, 8+) and 1992(4-, 8+) and competed in an 8+ during the 1992 (8+) and 1996 Olympic games.
It was in her rowing career as a teenager that Sabina met Hana. During their time with the Czech team, they rowed in the 8+ at the 1992 Olympic and as pair partners in the 1996 Olympics. When Hana decided on attending UW in 1992, Sabina visited and didn’t think twice about attending; she knew it was the place for her as well.
Driven to win, both Hana and Sabina felt the strong unity of the team leading their motivation. “I just felt the most incredible bond with my teammates,” said Hana. “Some of us are best friends to this day.” Put a large group of people working together daily towards the same goal and there’s bound to be a connection, but the bonds felt while both Hana and Sabina were on the team were similar to a family. Coming into the UW not knowing English can seem daunting to some, but the two women didn’t let it hinder their time on the team.
“I was presented an opportunity and grabbed it,” said Sabina. “I earned my way into the Husky family.” During their time on the team, both women went on to win many first place awards with the varsity 8+. The two say they owe a lot of their success to the “no-nonsense” coaching approach of both Bob Ernst and Jan Harville. On the team, success was not given out. According to Sabina, you were either in, or you were out, you had to earn your success both on and off the water.
Coach Jan Harville’s constant reminders to go “back to the basics” on the water still ring true for Hana to this day when she is feeling overwhelmed by the noise of life.
When asked about her proudest moment, Hana said it was beating Princeton during Opening Day, on their home turf in front of Husky fans and families. But according to Hana, just being on the team is something to be proud of.
“Looking back, it was just a magical experience,” said Hana. “We were lucky to be a part of it.” For Sabina, winning the varsity 8+ races at the 1997 and 1998 NCAA Championship, as well as winning the 2000 Henley Prize with her varsity 8+ at the Henley Regatta were all important races for her career as a Husky. To her, simply coming in every day and getting stronger with her team made her proud to be a Husky.
To the pair, the long hours on the lake were never a chore, but rather an essential step in shaping not only their progress as a rower but their outlook on life and work.
To put it simply, Sabina says “If you think training is hard, try losing.”
…most ex-oarsmen will tell you they learned more fundamentally important lessons in the racing shell than in the classroom.
– George Pocock