The First Strokes
November 11, 2016
Overlooking the Huron River, a wooden dock forks out over the water. Young rowers scurry back and forth along both sides while blades twice their size rest across their shoulders. In the moist August heat, the water lays flat and even— a perfect day for the middle schoolers participating in Washtenaw Rowing Centers (WRC) Middle School Learn to Row program. Among the many students gathered that day sits Kate Burns, an incoming freshman at the time and beginning rower herself. Introduced to rowing in middle school, Burns was more than reluctant to row at first. Burns admitted that she hated it that first week during WRC and even through the beginning of her novice year. Burns’ father, a previous University of Michigan soccer coach, was good friends with the U of M rowing coach and encouraged Burns to row after concluding that she would make a “good rower.” “He [at the time U of M Crew Coach Mark Rothstein] said ‘Someone’s who’s tall, someone who’s strong, and someone who has a high tolerance for pain’ and my dad was like— ‘oh that’s Kate. She should row!’” said Burns with a laugh.
After swimming the fall of her freshman year, Burns went into Skyline’s Winter Crew season as a novice. More than six months after her first experience on the water at WRC, the Skyline crew team returned to their site at Concordia College along the Huron river near Gallup Park, and Burns got her real first taste of rowing on the Huron River. Though the rowing was hard she slowly began to love the sport in her first couple months. “When the boat starts to feel better, that’s when I start liking it,” said Burns, these words hold true years later as a senior and varsity member on the Skyline Crew team.