TUESDAY, JUNE 22, 2010
A rare opportunity rows on
Have you tried something new for the heck of it and it led to something that you never would have ever imagined?

This is the case for recent JU graduate Jamie Dunlap, who tried out for the Dolphin women’s rowing team in 2009-10 for her senior season and now finds herself at a United States Rowing Training Center in Oklahoma City, Okla.

Dunlap, who graduated from Glendale Community College in Arizona, chose to attend JU to move closer to her family which was also the place her brother, Garrett, played baseball from 2006-09. After one year of school, she decided to try rowing in her final two semesters when she realized the program accepted walk-ons.

With no experience in the sport, she decided to take a crack at it.

“I just wanted to challenge myself,” said Dunlap. “I had played various sports in the past and I wanted to try something different. Once I started rowing, I liked it more and more before I eventually fell in love with it.”

Although she lacked the technical skills of a seasoned rower, Dunlap jumped to the forefront with her natural strength and work ethic. She set the team’s best 6K Erg Score and noticed the coaches making comments about her progress.

“Once the coaches started to tell me how well I was doing, I decided to see how far I could go with the sport,” Dunlap said. “I thought I would try to catch on with a summer camp but out of nowhere this opportunity presented itself.”

After asking JU women’s head coach Kris Muhl to look into possible places for her to continue her late starting career, Dunlap was contacted by Anne Kakela from USRowing about a rare opportunity in a new training a facility in Oklahoma City.

“I think it is a great opportunity for Jamie because she definitely has some raw talent,” said Muhl. “She worked very hard this last year as a senior novice and I certainly wish I had more time with her.”

Since walking in May graduation, Dunlap packed up and moved into an apartment near downtown Oklahoma City with four other girls who also received an invitation.

“It really surprised my family because I basically walked in the door and said I’m moving to Oklahoma,” Dunlap said. “Everyone has been very supportive of my decision because they realize how rare this opportunity is.”

Dunlap and the four other girls are currently on partial funding while they train six days a week at the Chesapeake Boathouse on the Oklahoma River – each day consists of two training sessions from 7:30-9:30 a.m. and 4:30-8:30 p.m. The athletes work out on the water in singles and doubles two times a week while also adding a cross-training workout three times a week.

By the end of the summer, the training center will move operations from Chesapeake to the new state-of-the-art Devon Boathouse - the reason Oklahoma was chosen as a new training site.

The five athletes will prepare for competition in the USRowing Club National Championships on July 14-18 in Oak Ridge, Tenn. before ending the summer at the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta in August. The group will continue to be evaluated, until they are told whether their careers will continue, fully funded, at the training facility in Oklahoma City.

“We are both appreciative of those at USRowing for letting her explore and develop her talent to see just how far she can go,” Muhl said. “Having more individualized attention, getting in the miles and being able to focus on rowing will be huge for her. I am really looking forward to seeing her develop.”

Although this invitation does not guarantee a continued career with USRowing, Dunlap is going to use this opportunity to learn everything she can about the sport she now loves.

“My goal right now is to make to worlds and try to make an Olympic boat,” Dunlap said. “I know those are high hopes but I’m fairly new to the sport and I have a lot of potential. If it doesn’t work out, I want to get into coaching and stick with it. I’ll go wherever; I just want to stay in this sport for my career.”