By Jeff Bechthold
Transfers are common in most college sports. The end of each football and basketball season is commonly peppered with news of student-athletes leaving one program for another. It’s a regular occurrence in nearly every sport. But not in rowing.
Which is why the presence of Chris Carlson in Conibear Shellhouse represents a rare thing. The junior from Bedford, N.H., started his college career at Marist, located in historic college rowing mecca of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., but decided to leave after last year, when he rowed in the Red Foxes’ top boat at IRAs.
A self-admitted late bloomer who didn’t reach his current height until after high school, Carlson earned a spot on the U.S. National Team, rowing in the men’s eight at the Under-23 World Championships last summer, a sure indication that he was ready for a greater challenge.
Having decided to make a move to a top-level rowing program, and with an Under-23 National Team slot on his résumé, it’s fair to say that Carlson had options. So, why Washington?
“I wanted to be surrounded by the best, and Washington is the best place for that,” he explains.
“Early on, when I was first talking to [UW assistant coach and recruiting coordinator] Matt Rung on the phone, within the first five minutes, he was talking about this idea of the ‘Washington Way,’ and having to earn your spot on the team – that nothing was going to be given to anyone,” Carlson says. “For some reason, I really liked that.
“I remember getting off the phone and talking to my mom,” he continues. “I told her about how it was a lot different than any of the other conversations I had with other programs. It wasn’t something that was going to be handed to me. That really intrigued me about the possibility of rowing here.”
Carlson has had a good landing thus far. Despite never having even visited the Pacific Northwest before taking what amounts to a recruiting trip, he’s been quick to settle in.
“It’s been great,” he says. “It’s been really smooth. The guys have definitely embraced me and showed the way.”
Carlson rowed in the Huskies’ eight at the Head of the Charles last fall, not too far from his home, but despite rising to that level so soon, he knows nothing is set in stone.
He also continues to grow as a rower and get better.
“I feel like I learn new things every day about the sport here,” he says. ” It’s really opened up my eyes tremendously to the sports.”