JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The women's rowing program at Jacksonville University is championship-caliber for a variety of reasons, but one of the most underrated aspects of the team's success is the integration of walk-on athletes.
These athletes are not just there to have a story to tell grandchildren one day. Perhaps no other sport is better set up for walk-ons to "learn the sport" and contribute at a high level in a short period of time.
Fifty percent of the women's Olympic rowing team started off as college walk-ons, and 45 percent of JU's roster is made up of the same designation. This year's women's rowing team added 17 walk-ons to the roster, after campus recruitment, meetings and, of course, a week of tryouts.
"I could not be more excited about this year's group of walk-ons," said Head Coach Mike Lane. "They are extremely influential in speed and success of the program."
Targeting high school athletes who may not have had the types of offers to play in college as their peers, the next step is to learn the fundamentals. Any nervousness of tackling a completely new sport is alleviated at least some by the amount of others on the team who have been in the new rower's shoes, some as recently as just one year prior. The testimonials from former walk-ons at the interest meeting, plus the free pizza, usually sways those that may have had any doubts.
There are plenty of success stories to lean on, and due to that, and the fact that the athletes decide to join for the challenge and sheer love of competition, helps make everyone on the team better.
"Their energy and enthusiasm for the sport is infectious," said Lane.
Introducing the newest walk-on members of the JU women's rowing team:
Alexis Ancelin – Jacksonville, Fla.
Kimmi Brostek – Hudson, Fla.
Olivia Butler – Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Melanie Carter – Essex, Mass.
Breana Cobb – Richmond, Va.
Morgan Colson – Jacksonville, Fla.
Hannah Cowan – Williamstown, N.J.
Cristyn Gaynor – Jacksonville, Fla.
Zaharia Green – Jacksonville, Fla.
Mary Hehn – Chicago, Ill.
Aeris Kania – Jacksonville, Fla.
Emily Muller – Gambrills, Md.
Emily Pickerel – Port Royal, Va.
Serena Rizk – Middletown, Pa.
Meredith Sprague – Jacksonville, Fla.
Ashley Terland – Condon, Ore.
Bria Walker – Portsmouth, Va.