Open Letter to Wisco Heavies 16-17

Hello to my beautiful team,


I want you to know that I’m thinking about you and Madison while I’m out of town. It’s really strange to be seeing all of your facebook posts about running stadiums, logistics and hangouts, briefly consider joining you and then realizing that I can’t. I love/hate the snapchats jamming to tipsy in the erg bay and watching sunsets on the terrace. I’m seriously missing the town and team I haven’t been away from for more than a month since 2013.

That being said, I have no regrets about not being in good old Madtown this summer. I’m having a lot of fun in Princeton. I’m rowing a lot, getting a great uni tan, meeting cool, strong, like-minded people and experiencing living somewhere other than Wisco for once in my life. I’ve learned soooo much already.

For starters, I’ve learned that I’m not a very good rower. If I’m being honest, I’ve been compensating for lack of skill with size and power for the last three years, which is incredibly unhelpful when everyone is big and powerful. I say that like it’s a bad thing, but it’s been good because I’ve had to make changes in how I row to make up for my small size, which I never thought I’d say. There have been so many moments already where I’ve done something differently in the stroke and been shocked at how much better the boat feels. I’m not going to return a perfect rower, but I hope I return to you better than I was.

That being said, I’ve seen things. Guys I’ve seen things.

We did a 30 minute last week. The fastest split was a 1:48 average.

No lies. I tied my PR on that piece and I was 20th. Last year only three people broke 1:55 on the 30 min. This year 16 people did. We’re paddling along in eights at an 18 in the low 1:50’s like its nothing.  Rowing is getting fast. Really fast.

I’ve also gotten glimpses at the inside of so many programs and it’s so cool to see how lucky we are.

Virgina rows off campus in a barn-like boathouse. Their erg room is upstairs and has no ventilation. Stanford has to drive 30 minutes to their boathouse and ergs in a random hallway on campus. At Oregon State, they sometimes can’t row anything bigger than a four in the summer because the water level in their river gets too low. The only food item that San Diego State is given for recovery is protein powder and only has one boat bay that they share with a masters and club team. We are so lucky to have what we have in Wisconsin.

We are #blest to have two bays full of beautiful boats at Porter Boathouse, three boatmen, coaches care about our well-being as humans more than rowers, free breakfast (which barely anyone has), laundry, the Fetzer center, awesome coxswains, money to travel, an alumni network and a f**king awesome school in general.

It’s unreal.

Another cheesy thing (pun intended) that we have is each other. I am so happy to be on this team where I feel loved and safe. I know that you all support me and I hope that all of you know how much I care about you.

Coming into fall with a better sense of what the rest of the country is doing has made me realize the urgency of our situation. To maintain the position we came out of NCAAs with last year we’re going to have to be scrappy as f***. We’re fast, we’re tough, but so is everyone else.

So while running the risk of sounding like I’m telling you what to do, I will offer you some advice that I have found was helpful for me the past couple of summers that you can choose to do whatever with.

The next three months are so important. A lot of schools don’t have something like our development camp; that’s why people are coming to us to row. Take advantage of the opportunity. Learn to row with each other while you’re not concerned about what boat you’re going to be in. Try something new, make mistakes, row with someone you are intimidated by.

Love the summer. Have fun. Listen to your body. If you’re doing recovery steady state, don’t feel bad about doing 2k + 26. If you’re unreasonably exhausted sleep more, take a day off, drink water. If you feel injured don’t be a f***ing hero!! Talk to Tricia and Bobby and don’t feel bad about taking time off. You’re not being a slacker, you’re being a responsible teammate.

On the flip side, don’t be a slacker. If you want to be good, you’re going to have to decide to be good. Find the person who’s working the hardest and try to work as hard as they do. Work smart though. Learn how to lift the right way instead of competing to lift the most.  Show up to the boathouse and grind, but if you’re not doing as well as you want to be, look at your technique. I also firsthand know how much they suck, but make an effort to do those goddamn stadiums and don’t forget core every once and a while.

Most of all I want you to know that last year was not a fluke. That wasn’t just “that one year that Wisconsin was really fast.” That was the beginning. The beginning of an era; when people stop thinking about Wisco as the girls in the TGI Fridays unis and not because we’re getting rid of them for Under Armour ones. They’re going to be scared of Wisco because we’re a force to be reckoned with.

We can be so good. I know it.

We’ve lost some seriously skilled seniors, and it’s going to be hard without them. They are irreplaceable, but we need to find a way to go fast without them— because we have to.

Our new sophomore class was undefeated last year. We don’t have a group of skinny ergos replacing the senior class, we have f***ing skilled assassins. But here’s the thing, the ACC, the PAC 12, the SEC, they don’t have freshmen events. Their frosh have been rowing in varsity boats for a year already.

They don’t have what you sophomores have though. You have a year of winning as a unit under your belts. You know what it feels like and how to do it. Jim knew what he was doing when he taught you how to row, but the next two months are going to be important for you guys to adapt to the volume of work that varsity rowing is. Be tough, get fit, stay happy. If you’re having any doubts about rowing, talk to an upperclassmen. We’ve ALL thought about quitting before and we can all tell you why you shouldn’t.

We can help you because we’ve been there before. We’ve been at rock bottom and we’ve gotten glimpses of the view from the top. The upperclassmen who were in NCAA boats this spring have gotten a taste of what it’s like to be right up with there with the best boats in the country. Our duty to you sophomores is to help you get there too.

We will take nothing for granted. We know that you will be fighting for our seats. We know that our team is so deep that the people who weren’t in NCAA boats are hungry for their chance as well. It’s a new year, it’s a new team it’s a new ballgame.

We can be in the top 5 at the Head of the Charles this year. We can elbow our way into that grand final at NCAAS. I know we can. We’re not the same program we were two years ago. I believe in us, but we gotta go. Like now. Summer should slide rowing onto the back burner a little bit. It should be less stressful and more fun. That being said, if you invest in it now, you’re going to reap the rewards later.

I’m doing everything I can out here to make you proud and make Wisco proud. Even if I don’t make a boat–or even make it past the first cuts I know you’ve got my back. I’m not afraid to fail and I think knowing that is going to help me fully appreciate this opportunity I’ve been given. I am not Wisconsin Rowing. We are Wisconsin Rowing. I want our boats to go fast, but me and my poor technique won’t be rowing them alone. We have to do it together.

I miss you all so much. Mr. Brightside came on during our erg warm-up and I legitimately had to pass off one or two tears as sweat drops. I’ve got my homies Lily and Lexi out here with me (who are killing it btw), which makes it so much easier, but I still miss rolling squad deep.

So work hard wherever you are. Forgive me for writing an Odyssey Online open letter (I hate me too). And go out and be Wisconsin Rowing. We can be so good but it starts right now.


Much love until I see you again in the land of cheese,

Maddie Wana


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