Western Washington University junior Meghan Woodman’s first love has always been soccer.
In her senior year at Redmond High, the defender was named the team MVP and also earned first-team all-Kingco honors for helping lead her team to a league-best 13-5-1 season.
Woodman continued to play soccer at the NCAA level Western Washington University, until a devastating injury early in her first season forced her to pick a new sport.
“In my freshman year I played soccer, and in my second or third game I sprained my MCL (knee ligament) and was out for the season,” said Woodman, who graduated from Redmond in 2005. “I was really bummed.”
Though she could no longer contribute on the field, Woodman continued to stay in shape by working out at the WWU REC center.
Soon after, she was encouraged by her dad to try out for the rowing team, which had just won its first national championship the previous year in 2005.
After returning from winter break, Woodman began attending some of the team’s early morning practices, watching and observing, and soon found that crew was something she wanted to try.
A well-rounded athlete, the 21-year-old quickly rose through the ranks of the WWU crew team.
As a sophomore, she was in the Viking 8 boat that won the 2007 national championship. She was especially eager to get the chance to repeat at this year’s NCAA II Rowing Championships held on Lake Natoma in Sacramento, Calif., due to the fact that she was rowing with four seniors looking to end their collegiate careers in crew with a splash.
The Vikings captured a wire-to-wire win, beating University of California-San Diego by three boat lengths and finishing the 2000-meter course in six minutes and 53.20 seconds.
“It was very emotional,” said Woodman of her team’s win. “There were two seniors sitting in front of me … we were kind of bawling since we knew it was our last race together.”
TRAINING FOR SUCCESS
Surprisingly, Woodman said most of the training she does for crew, which seems to involve mostly upper body strength, is the same as she did for many years as a soccer player.
“I do a lot of running around — on Education Hill and also the Redmond High track,” Woodman said. “I train for crew like soccer, a lot of runs and speed training… not as much upper-body.”
When the season rolls around, however, every member of Viking crew knows they have to put in their hours working together as a team in order to prepare themselves to be the dominant force in NCAA II rowing — even if those hours are not to everyone’s liking.
“The hardest part of crew is going out there when it’s pouring down rain and pitch-black at 5 a.m.,” Woodman admitted. “You just want to go back to bed.”
On the flip side, Woodman believes that the bonding that forms when a group of people are working together, albeit at odd hours, to achieve something is what she will take away the most from her experiences as a WWU rower.
“We really have a close-knit group, getting to know nine girls really close and see them every morning for two hours, six days a week,” Woodman said. “You get a different aspect in knowing people being with them at 5 a.m. working towards the same goal. It’s very encouraging and makes you work even harder.”
Woodman, as one of four underclassmen in the Viking 8 boat, will return next season as one of the senior team leaders on a team that looks to make it an unprecedented five straight NCAA II rowing championships. She believes the inherent strength of the program will allow that to happen.
“To have the same season we did this year, continue to excel and compete,” said Woodman of her expectations for the team next year. “We’re losing four seniors, so it’s going to be the freshmen come in to fill the seniors’ spots, and rowers that rowed this year will be coming in stronger than last year. We need to anticipate the expectations we (have) for ourselves.”
The Viking women’s crew team has won both the four and eight grand finals every year since 2005, which extended their NCAA record. No team in any division had won three straight championships prior to the Vikings last season.
“It’s been amazing, a really great experience,” said Woodman of being a part of such a powerhouse collegiate team. “I couldn’t have asked for more.”