Senior finds passion for rowing at WSU

Three-generation Cougar first to compete for WSU after being approached her freshman year, joining as sophomore



Senior rower Madeleine Bingham discusses becoming a rowing athlete after being a three-sport athlete in high school Monday in Bohler Gym.

KATIE ARCHER, Evergreen reporter

Madeleine Bingham is following in her family’s footsteps and leaving her own mark at WSU after being raised a Cougar.

The senior rower is a third-generation Cougar. Her grandparents and uncle on her mom’s side graduated from WSU as did both of her parents.

Bingham said her decision to attend WSU was influenced by her parents and one other person.

“I remember watching Klay Thompson on the TV and being like, ‘Oh, that’s a great school,’ ” Bingham said. “ ‘He’s doing so good. I definitely want to go here.’ ”

Bingham is the first in her family to compete in athletics at WSU; however, it did not start with an offer from WSU.

During high school, she played soccer, basketball and track and field. Those sports prepared her for what was coming, Bingham said.

Her parents said she had offers from smaller schools for soccer and basketball, but she wanted to go to WSU regardless of whether she was an athlete.

In her freshman year, some rowers approached Bingham about trying out for rowing. Bingham said she turned down the offer and instead competed in club sports so she could focus on school.

The next year Bingham was approached again and this time she gave it a shot. She made the novice team and, in her junior and senior years, she rowed with the varsity teams.

Her father, James, knew how important it was for her be part of WSU Athletics.

“Where she wasn’t able to meet the total end of her goals in the other sports, making the rowing team was a great accomplishment for her,” James said.

She knew being a walk-on was going to be challenging. Her goal was to be one of the fittest athletes on the team so the coach would notice her, she said.

Rowing is demanding in its own ways requiring both mental and physical strength. She said practices start at 6 a.m. and 3 p.m., and the testing days, which include doing 2ks or 6ks, are intense.

She enjoys the teamwork aspect of rowing because everyone has to work together. The challenges of the sport keep her coming back, she said.

She looks forward to the challenge of doing the hard workouts and what she can do at that time. The workouts include short sprint pieces which put the body under a lot of stress, she said.

This stress on her body is harder, however, because she has asthma.

“You’re going to be pushing through your legs but then it’s also a like a shock to your system overall,” Bingham said. “You’re trying to breathe but you can’t really breathe sometimes. … You see the stars, you’re going so hard.”

Her favorite rowing moment happened during her junior year at the Clemson Invite. She was on the third varsity eight and her team placed second, advancing them to the ‘A’ final.

Bingham said this was memorable because the Cougars wanted to beat No. 9 Virginia at the time, however, Virginia finished in first.

In the “A” final, the team did not have a good start and had to move up through the competition. They placed second, beating five other crews including Virginia. She said this felt good because the team came from behind to take second.

If she had not been approached, Bingham said she does not know if she would have considered rowing. She said she thinks she would probably still be participating in club sports.

Becoming a student athlete improved her grades because she knew she had to get things done, Bingham said. She is studying environmental science and German language, totaling to a 19-credit semester.

After WSU, Bingham is thinking about grad school and is considering options in Germany. However, if grad school doesn’t work out, she’s thinking about getting a job close to Richland, Washington, to gain work experience.

She wants to follow in her parents’ footsteps, Bingham said. Her mom, Cindra, is an environmental scientist and her dad is an engineer.

With the influence of her parents’ careers, Bingham knew she wanted to go into the STEM field.

Both Bingham and her younger sister, Emma, went into science. Unlike Bingham, Emma is attending the University of Washington.

Cindra said she’s happy to see her daughter pursuing a similar career path.

“I guess she did listen,” Cindra said. “All those times when it looked like their ears were plugged and their eyes were closed, maybe she was taking some of the stuff in.”

She has one more semester before graduating. Walking onto the team was a positive experience for Bingham.

“It was an awesome decision. I just loved everything about it,” Bingham said. “It’s really fun. Lots of hard work. It’s not like any other sport I’ve done in my life.”