All-American rowers reflect on success and look toward the season

Noah Brooks

Juniors Gia Doonan and Emily Froehlich were busy training at the U.S. National Team training facilities over the summer with rowers from across the nation. Suddenly, an announcement rang out of the overhead speakers.

Along with 19 others — including fellow Longhorn junior starboard Pippa Loveard — Doonan and Froehlich had been named first team All-Americans by the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association.

The announcement came as a surprise to the two Texas rowers. They paused their exercises to congratulate each other, but the celebration lasted only a few seconds, giving each other a simple handshake before returning to their workouts.

“We didn’t even know we were nominated, and we were like ‘Alright, cool!’” Doonan said. “But we were also, like, ‘Alright, on to what we need to do next.’”

The All-American honors came as just the latest awards for the duo. In 2015, Doonan grabbed the Big 12 Rower of the Year award, while Froehlich, a transfer from Purdue, took the conference’s Newcomer of the Year award. All of this came as they led Texas to its first Big 12 championship.

But Doonan and Froehlich are quick to pin the reason for their success on someone else — head coach Dave O’Neill.

O’Neill, who arrived in Austin in June 2014, helped turn the Longhorns into a premier program. Texas finished last season with a seventh-place showing in the NCAA championships.

Froehlich said his arrival and the promise of a new start were the top reasons why she chose to transfer to Texas.

“I visited here, and I saw how Dave came in and how the whole team was just raring to go,” Froehlich said. “If I wanted to be part of something big and be a key part of that, then Texas is the place to be.”

Unlike Froehlich, Doonan experienced the coaching change and saw how it changed the team for the better. When Froehlich visited campus before transferring, she was sold on O’Neill and the program after Doonan described his demanding approach to the sport.

O’Neill was quick to return the praise for two of his best players, citing their dedication and skill in the sport as a reason for their and the team’s success.

“[Their] attitude goes a long way,” O’Neill said. “And they’re really good technical rowers, and each of them have gotten stronger this year. I expect a lot out of them, … and they’re doing a good job.”

The pair validated his approval last weekend during the Longhorn Invitational. In Texas’ first spring regatta, the Longhorns swept Notre Dame and San Diego. But even after helping their boat to an invitational-high time of 6:26.95, Doonan and Froehlich aren’t planning on resting their laurels.

“We put all of that effort into last year’s result, and [this year] we can’t just show up and say, ‘We’re Texas,’” Doonan said. “There’s a lot of effort being put in, and we’re doing the same thing [as last year] again.”