Redmond’s Spencer brothers get a rush out of rowing, but the duo also grabs onto personal growth with all that comes along with the sport.
Sometimes things go Will and John’s way, and there are instances when the Stanford University varsity athletes have to dig down deep and try to turn a tough situation into a positive experience. One time, they had to deal with snow at the University of Washington Head of the Lake regatta, taking second. Another time, while John competed with the Sammamish Rowing Association (SRA), his team had to bring in a spare rower the night before a race and they made the best of the scenario, finishing 15th nationally.
The Overlake School graduates have shown they can plow through whatever rowing sends their direction.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned is really the ability to work hard under adverse conditions and you overcome challenges, ones that you might expect and ones that you might not expect,” said Will, a Stanford senior, adding that they need to stay mentally locked in to handle the balancing act of school and rowing.
Added John, a Stanford freshman: “In order to have the fastest boat and win the race, you have to collectively pull together, metaphorically and realistically with your oars, so I think that creates a special mentality in the sport of rowing.”
Highlights during the brothers’ season together were finishing eighth in their four boat at the Head of the Charles regatta in Boston last October and, of course, that “crazy” Head of the Lake race at UW, according to John. Their four boat has a few more races on the docket before the Pac 12 championships in mid-May, and they hope to qualify for nationals at the beginning of June.
Following in the footsteps of their father, who rowed for one year at Harvard, the guys switched from basketball (Will) and soccer (John) to the rowing realm with SRA and have never looked back.
This is Will’s fourth year at Stanford and he said it’s been a stellar experience from day one. His teammates and coaches have provided support the whole way, from finishing third at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) nationals his freshman year in the four boat, to competing with the United States U23 national squad and taking first at trials and sixth in the world in Bulgaria, to sharing a boat with his brother and keeping the family tradition alive.
Competing at the Head of the Lake is always a treat because it’s a homecoming for the boys and, according to Will, they get to “enjoy the Pacific Northwest rowing in all its splendor, it’s a very beautiful and special part of the Northwest sporting community and that event really puts it on full display.”
In the classroom, Will majors in mechanical engineering and twice made the all-Pac 12 academic first team and the IRA all-American academic team. He’ll walk in the graduation ceremony in June and finish up next fall. John majors in management science and engineering.
“Will has definitely been a role model for me on how to balance athletics and academics,” John said. “(Stanford) really inspires guys to pursue not just high goals in rowing, also pursue high goals in the classroom.”
John added that the Spencers’ relationship has become even stronger with the pair at Stanford together, and they motivate each other to push harder in and out of their boat.
And it all comes back to the SRA, which is where the boys learned about rowing and life, and they said they’re grateful for all the coaches and teammates who helped them along the way.