If it wasn’t for an outdated ad on a local truck, Meghan Ricci probably wouldn’t be the person she is today.
The senior on the women’s rowing team remembers the time well. She had quit playing soccer during her junior year of high school because she admittedly wasn’t very good at it. But she hated sitting still. She needed something active to fill her day.
That’s when her dad saw a truck with an ad on it for Park City Rowing Academy in her hometown of Park City, Utah. She immediately got in touch with the coach, who just hadn’t changed the ad yet.
“There was no one on the team,” Ricci said. “It basically had been disbanded because it’s so hard to row in Utah. It gets so cold so quickly and for so long, and everyone wants to ski and play soccer or lacrosse.”
But that didn’t stop her.
“I wrangled friends in and eventually got enough for a four*, and I think now they have 24 kids on the team, so that’s pretty cool they built that up,” Ricci said.
After the initial fear of an off-balanced boat, Ricci fell in love.
“There’s something about being on the water that’s so calming,” Ricci said. “You can just really re-center yourself. Nothing out there matters but the feel of the boat and the run*, because when you get it right, it feels like you’re flying.”
Ricci has been able to continue rowing through college, but she wasn’t always planning on coming to Seattle U.
In fact, she admits that it was “kind of a fluke.”
Before her senior year of high school, Ricci only wanted to go to school on the East Coast. Then, the week before she was supposed to go visit schools out there, Hurricane Sandy hit and all the flights were cancelled.
So instead of going to the East Coast, she found herself on a plane in the other direction with her best friend who already planned on attending Seattle U.
It was a random trip and it was her first time in Seattle, or even Washington state. And it was a week filled with weather typical of Pacific Northwest winters.
So, no, Ricci admits. It wasn’t love at first sight.
“I actually really didn’t like it,” Ricci remembers, laughing. “When I came, the weather was just so miserable and rainy and wet.”
But then, her opinions quickly changed when she saw the campus and got a taste of what rowing would be like in Seattle.
“I really liked the vibe of the campus, and I loved the view of the water on the launch*,” Ricci said. “I don’t think I’m going to miss anything more than the view of the skyline at 6:30 in the morning when you come around the corner (from the shipping canal under the Fremont and Aurora bridge to the middle of Lake Union). That cemented it and I could see myself doing that every day.”
Four years later, Ricci knows she made the right choice.
“This was the perfect place for me,” Ricci said. “I ended up at the right school.”
In rowing, it’s go until you hurt, and then keep going…
Rowing would come to be something of a love-hate relationship. It’s painful and takes a lot of hard work to be successful.
“It’s a very elegant sport when you do it right,” Ricci said. “Rowing is very difficult, but you know people are doing it right when they make it look effortless.”
Luckily, Ricci is stubborn.
She embraces the pain she knows she has to put her body through in order to compete in the sport she loves.
“There’s something about being uncomfortable. It’s like a fundamental part of rowing is being in pain, and very few people enjoy that,” Ricci said. “Sometimes, in sports, it’s ‘go until you hurt,’ and then you’ve found your point. In rowing, it’s ‘go until you hurt,’ and then keep going.”
Still, Ricci thinks there are misconceptions about rowing from the outsider’s viewpoint.
Because it looks fluid and effortless when it’s done right, she thinks rowers don’t always get the credit they deserve for the amount of strength they have to exert.
Rowers, she explained, push themselves past the point of not wanting to go anymore.
“The aftermath of a rowing race is people are passing out, throwing up, trying not to fall back,” Ricci said. “It’s a very old-fashioned type of sport in that way. You have to keep your composure even though all you want to do is lay down and never move again. There’s so much happening beneath the surface.”
So why do it?
For Ricci, it’s her unwillingness to quit. She tells her body to “shut up,” and keeps pushing. From the very first week on the team, quitting was never an option.
In fact, Ricci, the captain, is the only senior on the team who has raced all four years at Seattle U.
She wants to be remembered for her sacrifice and dedication to the team.
“I want to be remembered for helping shape the expectations and definition of what being a rower at Seattle University means,” Ricci said.
In part, it’s about trust – in and out of the boat.
“Rowing requires complete and absolute trust in the people around you,” Ricci said. “It’s almost like a never-ending trust fall.”
I don’t know what my life would’ve been like without the team…
If it wasn’t for the team, Ricci doesn’t think she would have stayed at Seattle U.
“Knowing that people are there for you can make the worst moments of your life bearable, and I hope that continues to grow and cement itself in what Seattle University’s rowing team is,” Ricci said.
The summer before her sophomore year, one of her best friends died.
“My sophomore year was the hardest year of my life, and I think without the team, I would have ended up going home or maybe not even coming back,” Ricci said. “It gave me a reason to come back and keep going.”
The power the sport and her teammates had over helping her through that time was incredible.
“Rowing gave me something to do, something to look forward to, something to achieve,” Ricci said. “As much as I like the classes here, rowing gave me a reason to want to come back. I don’t know what my life would’ve been like without the team. I don’t know how I would’ve handled that situation without the team.”
Ricci remembers that time as one where she wanted to shut everyone out, and would have probably let friendships fade.
But her team didn’t let that happen.
“I’ve never felt more loved than when I didn’t want to be,” Ricci said. “The team, they were always there.”
Rowing at Seattle U changed Ricci’s life.
“I don’t think I would even be close to the same person if I hadn’t joined the rowing team. It’s taught me how to push past my limits. It’s taught me to come out of my shell completely,” Ricci said. “It’s taught me commitment, time management, dedication, how to trust other people, how to give up a little bit of control, and how to ask for control.”
When Ricci goes home, she said people tell her she’s a different person.
“I used to walk into a room, and I don’t think anyone would have remembered that I was there,” Ricci said. “Now I can walk in confident knowing that I have a reason to be there and value walking into a room.”
One comment she gets often: “You’re taller.”
She isn’t taller, but she thinks she knows why people might think she’s grown physically.
“I think it’s just that I exist a little bit more loudly,” Ricci said.
*Rowing terms key:
Four = A shell (boat) with four rowers, each one with an oar
Run = The distance the shell (boat) moves during one stroke
Launch = A motorboat used by rowing coaches, instructors, or referees