Senior Abbey Wilkowski leads Texas Rowing

Sam Jackson

The air is humid and the morning is early, but the team could not be more excited about getting on the water to kick off its fall season. It even smells like rowing season as members of the team assemble in the boathouse, carrying their boats off the water. 

After four consecutive years holding the conference crown, Texas fell short of a Big 12 title last year — and hope to change
things up.

Despite the tough workout she just emerged from, Abbey Wilkowski, senior from Cypress, Texas and , smiles welcomingly as she settles down, stretching out and wincing as she rubs her sore legs. 

“Rowing is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, both mentally and physically,” Wilkowski said. “It’s a very love/hate relationship most of
the time.”

Wilkowski began rowing as a freshman in college after being “hustled” by the tryout tables around campus. Once her novice eligibility was completed, she moved forward to the varsity squad. 

“I remember going into my sophomore year when we did our first 6K erg tests (rowing machine test),” Wilkowski said. “It was one of the most stressful things I’ve ever had to go through.”

At the beginning of each season the team kicks off the year with their annual 6K workouts. The locker room is packed with seven or more girls and a coxswain to coach everyone through the workout. This is the introduction to every season and helps judge how well the team trained over the summer. Instead of the usual playlist, the locker room is silent, with the exception of the coaching staff chatting behind the team and drinking coffee.

“The experience is nauseating and the coffee smell doesn’t exactly help,” Wilkowski said. “After that, so many things in my life I would anticipate to be hard don’t even come close to that experience.” 

Like many athletes, Wilkowski has transferred her rowing experiences to her life off the water. Rowing developed her sense of team value and hard work.

“Rowing has not only taught me how to be a part of a team but also how to work hard individually,” Wilkowski said. “I’ve become very self motivated. I have two jobs: rowing workout every day and school.” 

Wilkowski gained the
respect of her teammates and coaches through her dedication. Wilkowski serves in the stroke position, which is the boat’s tempo setter, a naturally leadership role. 

“I moved up to varsity from the novice squad in the middle of the season last year and it was a really difficult transition to switch teams,” sophomore coxswain Katie Betsill said. “Abbey kind of took me under my wing and helped me through everything.”

After taking some time off after the spring season, Wilkowski resumed work through the summer and returned immediately to the boathouse for optional workouts in early
September. 

“I’m excited for the season ahead. We’ve worked hard and will continue to push ourselves,” head coach Carie Graves said. “They need to continue to learn to harness that power and collectively be fierce.”