Wellesley’s Becca Kimball ’14 Pushes Her Limits at USRowing Pre-Elite Training Camp

August 9, 2013

In spring of this year, Becca Kimball ’14 was selected by coaches in the national governing body of rowing, USRowing, to participate in a national team development camp in the summer. Kimball was one of only eight women selected from across the country, and was the only athlete selected who was not from a Division I school. (Wellesley is DIII.)

The camp's goal, as described by the USRowing website, is to teach skills necessary to compete at the elite level by introducing and developing sculling, gaining fitness, and increasing strength-to-weight ratio. Athletes train intensely with 2-3 practices per day, with opportunities to scrimmage or race during the camp—all with an eye to developing athletes for the under-23 and senior national teams.

The camp began July 8 and culminates in competition at the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta in St. Catharine’s, Ontario, the weekend of August 10-11. Syracuse University Women’s Rowing Coach Justin Moore was head coach of the camp, which was run at the university’s rowing facility in Syracuse, N.Y. In a press release (where you might glimpse Kimball in the background of a video interview), Moore said, "Having these women row in doubles and learning how to scull and becoming competent in sculling boats increases their ability to have success in their post-collegiate rowing careers."

When camp invitations were announced in April, Boston.com ran a feature on Kimball and her transition from basketball star in high school and at Wellesley to up-and-coming rower on the national scene. Tessa Spillane, head coach of rowing at Wellesly, had recommended Kimball for selection based on her ergometer scores, skills, and potential. USRowing Coach Moore told Boston.com: “Our focus will be on making Becca and her teammates the best rowers they can be, and give them a big dose of experience that will help them realize what it takes to get to the next level, our U-23 team.”

Knowing that a rowing camp can be a physically and even emotionally taxing but often illuminating experience, we asked Kimball to send us a “letter from camp” to share a little of what it’s like.

Report from Becca Kimball at Training Camp

When first learning that I was one of ten rowers selected to attend a USRowing National Team training camp, I felt a wave of emotions: from surprise to excitement, to nerves, to intimidation. This emotional rollercoaster continued during the arduous preparation for the camp in the month of June and has rolled on during the camp itself.

Arriving at Syracuse University in the beginning of July for camp, I found that the other women came from Division I universities across the country and that I was one of the shortest participants, though standing 5 feet 11 inches. Yet, I realized that we all shared a common drive, a sincere desire to push ourselves to the limit. It reminded me of walking onto the Wellesley College campus for first-year orientation, and meeting hundreds of independent, bright young women, looking to excel in their respective passions.

This camp is devoted to conditioning and to developing our skills at sculling in doubles (two rowers to a boat, each with two oars) and we have three grueling practices each day. We begin at 7 a.m. on Onondaga Lake, doing speed work for two hours in our doubles to prepare for racing. Our second practice is at 11 a.m., and we work on technical rowing improvements, in doubles or singles. In between the two morning practices we refuel and rest in the Syracuse boathouse, and after the second practice everyone goes home for a few hours to recover. Our third practice is at 4 p.m. at the workout facility on the Syracuse campus, and we either row on the ergometer, run, bike, or do strength training. We are staying with host families, and mine has been incredibly welcoming and even cooks dinner for me every night. During our downtime I am often so exhausted that I nap and watch TV, but I have also been working on my applications for graduate school and my senior thesis in Spanish, as well as exploring Syracuse with my host sisters.

The camp is extremely challenging. At times I do things that I did not know I was capable of, but I also have disheartening moments, when everything seems so out of reach. But that is exactly why I am here. To test myself in a way I never have before, to compete with the best in the country, and to see how far I can push myself when my mind is telling me to stop.

I am not sure what the future holds for me, in terms of rowing or life itself. But I do know that I will be coming back to Wellesley a more tested, confident individual. I will complete my majors in economics and Spanish, write my senior thesis, and hopefully help my team to a fifth consecutive trip to the NCAA National Rowing Championships.

Photo: Becca Kimball '14 (stroke) and Katie Fanikos of University of Virginia competing at Royal Canadian Henley Regatta 2013 by row2k.com.