Redmond athletes are ready for college rowing scene

Epp, Kirchoff compete for Sammamish Rowing Association.

Faith Epp and Mary Kirchoff’s rowing worlds will soon expand past the waters of Lake Sammamish.

The Redmond residents along with several other Sammamish Rowing Association athletes recently signed their letters of intent to compete in college. Their schools of choice are Southern Methodist University (Epp), Oregon State University (Kirchoff and Kathryn Clemens), University of Texas at Austin (Allie Kelly of The Overlake School) and Lehigh University (Cameron Laukaitis).

Epp, who attends Redmond High, swam competitively for eight years before she reached for rowing when a family friend suggested she check it out.

“I was ready for a change,” said Epp, who hooked up with SRA in December of her freshman year and began attending workouts in the dark and freezing cold, she laughed. She loved the sport immediately and said it takes a big commitment to succeed on the rowing scene.

The SRA rowers provided a friendly atmosphere for newcomer Epp and the seniors especially took her under their wing at the boathouse and beyond. Four years in, and now Epp has embraced a senior leader role for the youngsters.

It takes heaps of hard work to row well, she said, adding to her advice docket, “Have a goal in mind and shoot for it every single day.”

Epp’s goal of rowing in college emerged at the end of her sophomore year when she heard the seniors discussing their future plans and she thought it would be cool to follow in their footsteps.

“I didn’t know it would take me this far and I’m glad it has,” she said.

She was able to check all of her college boxes with SMU in Dallas, some of which are warm weather, a beautiful campus and welcoming teammates and coaches — just like when she started her career at SRA (except for the weather part).

Kirchoff began her life as a boat coxswain for SRA last August and the Redmond High/Running Start student has thrived in her leadership role and learning the technical aspects of the entire sport.

She rows on occasion but spends the majority of her time seated at the front of the boat like a quarterback while guiding her teammates through workouts and races.

“I lead the girls in my boat, make sure the boat stays safe out on the water and that your boat is as fast as possible,” Kirchoff said with enthusiasm. “I feel like I have an influence on the team.”

Kirchoff gains inspiration from her teammates at the boathouse every day and she enjoys the camaraderie — the sisterhood, as she calls it — from everyone on the scene.

While visiting Oregon State University, Kirchoff clicked with the rowing coaches and she’s looking forward to working with them and her teammates next season. They aspire to qualify for the NCAA championship meet and “I hope that I can help them achieve that,” she said.

* Six of 11 SRA rowers chosen to compete in the US Rowing Regional Challenge in Sarasota, Florida, on Dec. 15 have Redmond-area ties. They are: sisters Faith and Grace Epp, Kelly, Max Mason, Grace Sappington and Megan Culbert.

Left to right: Sammamish Rowing Association’s Cameron Laukaitis, Mary Kirchoff, Kathryn Clemens, Allie Kelly and Faith Epp. Courtesy photo

Left to right: Sammamish Rowing Association’s Cameron Laukaitis, Mary Kirchoff, Kathryn Clemens, Allie Kelly and Faith Epp. Courtesy photo