‘100 percent dedicated’ to rowing

Danielson found unexpected passion freshman year after joining Cougar team


ABBY LINNENKOHL | The Daily Evergreen

Paige Danielson explains why she enjoys rowing and how the team dynamic makes the athletic experience unique from other sports she has played.

DYLAN GREENE, Evergreen reporter

Paige Danielson was a four-sport athlete in high school, participating in cross-country, track and field, swimming and basketball.

When she came to WSU, she decided to try a new sport — rowing.

“How many times do you have a chance to try something completely new, especially once you get this far in life?” Danielson rhetorically asked.

Danielson, a junior electrical engineering major, has been a member of WSU rowing since her freshman year. She first heard about the team during her orientation session.

“I stopped by one of the tables, they handed me something and said, ‘Hey we have a meeting the second week of school, come learn about us,’ ” Danielson said.

She said she was considering doing cross-country or track in college, but injuries toward the end of her high school career eliminated those options. Rowing has filled this void, she said.

“The thing about rowing is in some ways, it’s kind of similar to distance running,” Danielson said. “You just have to put in all the hours of work just to do these short races.”

She isn’t joking about the hours. During the season, the rowing team practices at 6 a.m. and 3 p.m. every school day. Danielson said it can be difficult to find time for homework, but admitted it’s a balance.

“Some weeks are harder than others,” she said. “It definitely makes you stay on top of things and it’s made me develop more of a schedule.”

When Danielson began searching for a college, she looked for one that had an engineering program and wasn’t in her home state of Minnesota.

It turned out that a college with a small-town feel and a climate she was used to was the perfect fit.

“WSU looked like it had some really neat opportunities,” Danielson said. “I came out here, came on campus and fell in love. It felt like home.”

She competed on the novice rowing team during the fall season of her freshman year. In the proceeding spring, she made the jump to the varsity team and rowed in the varsity four.

Danielson rowed in the varsity eight last season and made it to the 2017 NCAA Rowing Championships in New Jersey. She said competing at the event was an amazing experience, but intimidating at times.

“It’s really cool to be around people who are so into rowing at such a high level,” she said. “It was really intense. It’s terrifying in a way, lining up … and being like ‘This is it.’ ”

While at the championships, Danielson was named the 2017 NCAA Elite 90 Award winner for Division I women’s rowing.

The award is given to the student athlete with the highest cumulative grade point average participating at the finals site of each of the 90 NCAA Championships.

WSU rowing has competed in the NCCA Championships five straight years and Danielson said the team plans on making it six this season.

“We’re trying to make it a tradition that we keep on going to NCAAs,” she said, “so when we get there, it’s kind of a relief.”

WSU sent three varsity eights and a varsity four to compete Saturday against Gonzaga University at the Spokane River. Danielson and the first varsity eight crew finished the first flight of the 5,000-meter course with a time of 16:50 minutes, the fastest of the day.

Even though Danielson has competed in the varsity eight and four during her time on the team, she said she doesn’t prefer one over the other.

“Of course, you want to be in the varsity eight because you want to be at the top and rowing as fast as possible,” Danielson said. “But there is definitely a connection in the four that you don’t always get in the eight.”

She said she is just glad that she came to WSU and tried out for the team.

“Once I joined, I definitely fell in love with rowing,” Danielson said. “I’m 100 percent dedicated to it.”

The Cougars will close the fall rowing season at 8 a.m. Nov. 5 at the Head of the Lake, hosted by University of Washington.