A little more than one year ago, Erin Briggs was planning on going to college in Utah, figuring that her competitive athletic career was over.
Now, thanks to a spur of the moment decision to join a newly-founded rowing club, the Orono senior’s life has taken a completely different path.
Briggs, a three-sport captain (volleyball, Nordic ski racing, track and field), was looking for another way to stay in shape when she became a member of the Long Lake Rowing Club, which began in 2011. Briggs’ natural abilities showed through immediately and when she took first place in an individual race last summer, college rowing programs took notice.
“After I won the race, I started hearing from colleges,” said Briggs. “That was a cool, completely-unexpected experience.”
Briggs was impressive enough to earn a rowing scholarship offer from the University of Virginia, the defending national champions.
Staff writer Jim Paulsen talked to Briggs about her future career and how rowing has changed her life.
Q: Why did you start rowing?
A: That’s an interesting story. The club opened up pretty close to where I live, so I decided to join. I just thought it was fun, but I really didn’t know anything. I took a 2K test on a rowing machine and I did pretty well. Then I won a regatta and I started getting calls from colleges.
Q: How did that feel, having so little experience at rowing?
A: I was so grateful and humbled that something like this could happen. I’ve met others who have been rowing for years and years. It’s amazing to think I’m at that level.
Q: What did the college recruiters say?
A: They liked that I was a good athlete and good at other sports. But the coaches told me what they liked the most was my character and work ethic.
Q: Why Virginia?
A: They were the number one team in the country at the time, so that helped, but I really liked the coach. His motto drew me to them: “Stay humble and stay hungry.”
Q: Describe what it’s like to be a rower
A: Every aspect of your body is working at fullest capacity. It’s very taxing. I feel super tired after every regatta.
Q: You must be in great shape.
A: I’ve been an athlete my entire life and in the summer I do road biking with my dad, but I’ve never felt as strong and fast and fit as I did at the end of rowing season last August.
Q: Those rowing sculs look tiny. Do they ever make you nervous?
A: When you’re new at it, they are so hard to balance! I fell out so many times. You get used to it, but one bad move and you can flip out of that thing quickly.
Q: You’re a captain in three other sports. What is it about you that makes you captain material?
A: I was the new kid at this school [Briggs transferred to Orono before tenth-grade]. I know what it’s like to look up to other people and how important it is to reach out to them. I remember what it was like when I needed help.
Q: Do you have a favorite sport?
A: It’s hard to choose. I’ve grown to like endurance sports recently, but I really like the feeling of team sports. I guess I would have to say rowing. It’s the best of both worlds.
Q: Do you ever think how differently your life would be right now if you hadn’t joined the rowing club?
A: I do. It’s amazing how quickly my life turned upside down, even in just a year.