Seven years after she began rowing in high school, Texas rowing senior captain Casey Redman still wrestles with the self-doubt that creeps into her mind before each race.
Although 2000m races still leave Redman exhausted, she said she finds comfort in her months of training and preparation.
“It’s all hard,” Redman said. “There’s nothing easy about it. You can’t breathe; your legs are on fire, and it’s over in six minutes, which, in terms of racing, is pretty long.”
Redman and the Longhorns have spent almost seven months training and preparing for their spring season. Their journey toward qualifying for the NCAA Championships will officially begin Saturday at the San Diego Crew Classic, where they will compete in their first regatta of the spring season.
Unlike races in the fall, the results of the spring regattas will factor into the NCAA selection committee’s decisions for the at-large bids to the NCAA Championships.
Should the Longhorns fall short of winning the Big 12 Championship and the automatic bid, their performance against other Division I schools in the spring will determine whether they make the cut in a selection process that is similar to that of the NCAA basketball tournament.
“Those fall races — it’s all about preparing for the spring, and now this is what we’ve trained for,” head coach Dave O’Neill said. “The intensity has increased significantly: on the water, the workouts that we’re doing, the pressure on the athletes [and] the demands from the coaching staff. So yeah, things are really heating up.”
The Longhorns will compete in four events both Saturday and Sunday — the first varsity eight, second varsity eight, varsity four and open eight.
The team’s primary Division I competition will be UCLA, University of San Diego and USC — all teams that competed in the NCAA Championships last year. Despite the increased competition, O’Neill doesn’t want to devote any thought to the other schools.
“Rowing is different than basketball in that no one can put up a defense that controls what we do,” O’Neill said. “So if we do our race perfectly, it doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing.”
O’Neill’s emphasis on ignoring opponents is clear during Saturday practices. The athletes race against each other in boats with opposing teams’ colors to mentally prepare.
“We’re pretty much just focused on us,” Redman said. “We kind of just call them other colors. It’s just like, ‘OK, we’re racing red; we’re racing blue; we’re racing purple.’ It’s all about us and what we can do and not what other people are bringing.”
The Longhorns’ schedule emphasizes self-improvement over competition. While some other schools begin their spring season in early February, O’Neill prefers to reserve that time for training and worry about competition later in the spring.
“If we were to race somebody in February, like a real race, we would be sacrificing a weekend of training, and those February weekends — they’re precious,” O’Neill said. “It goes back to keeping the main thing the main thing and focusing on ourselves. If we go fast, no one can touch us.”