Interview with SOU Coxswain Coleen Wheeler
Coleen Wheeler is the coxswain for the SOU women’s novice four that recently won a silver at Nationals. We recently caught up with her to ask some questions about the amazing season.
RVM: Before starting rowing at SOU, what did you know about the sport?
CW: Before October 2016, I had only ever seen rowing in the Olympics. I knew next to nothing about it besides that it looked like an incredible combination of grace and power. It thrilled me to watch the close up shots of the rowers moving in perfect synchronization; it made me want to move that way.
RVM: What has been some of the best advice you’ve received about being a coxswain?
CW: One of our coaches, Nathan Ostovar, was a coxswain throughout high school and he is largely responsible for my growth as a coxswain. He taught me all the tangible skills of coxing a boat, but the difficult part was putting it into practice. The other coaches helped me along with bits of advice when I asked for it (or when I was being particularly dense about learning something), but one thing struck a cord with me. It was April 1, the San Diego Crew Classic and our first race ever. I was beside myself with anxiety and in the middle of my nervous chatter, Rick turned to me and said “Coleen, stop. You know what to do.” And it turned out he was right.
RVM: Watching the video of the race, it was clearly a tight finish with William & Mary, and Penn State. What were you saying to the rowers?
CW: By the last 500 meters of the race, I was definitely in tears and absolutely screaming to my girls. When they are reaching their breaking point, it’s my job to pull more out of them when they think they’ve got nothing left. We like to take power ten’s where I call out one of the girls by name and we take those ten strokes for her. We took tens for each of them, for our coaches, and then we took a ten for Penn state and William & Mary that sent us over the finish line.
RVM: It also seems as if you kept the stroke rate relatively low during the final 100 meters. Is that right?
CW: Our stroke seat Cassidy Wheat really likes racing at a 31-33 and all the girls are amazing at locking in with her at that rating. “Long and strong” is kind of the motto of our boat because of how good they are at achieving that ratio.
RVM: What are your thoughts about next season?
CW: At the beginning of the season, a common goal of our team was “not last!”. We had no idea what to expect when we were put next to other boats. As the season went on, we began to see our hard work paying off and before we knew it, we were racing for national titles at ACRA. It’s breathtaking to think about that 10 month journey from start to finish because I don’t think anyone would have guessed we would end up with a first place in the petit finals for our women’s novice 8 and second place in the grand finals for our women’s novice 4. Next year, it’s a whole new game. When we stepped off the dock in Georgia, we became a varsity crew. Next year we will be racing against crews with returning varsity rowers and coxswains who undoubtably know things we don’t. But we know who our competition is and our eyes will be on them. The SOU crew has accomplished something tremendous this year with so many odds stacked against us. We’ve risen to the challenge before and we’ll do it again.