Rowing's McKean has Grown from Walk-On to Integral Team Member
May 1, 2013
Most Division I athletes come to college to play a sport they participated in at a high level. This is not the case for sophomore Alicia McKean, who walked on to the Boston College rowing team as a freshman with no previous experience.
"The first time in the boat everything is so slow and you don't really know what's going on," McKean said. "It's really daunting, you don't really think you are ever going to get it, but you do."
After swimming and running cross country at Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical High School, McKean was intrigued by a flyer she received shortly before her freshman year calling for students to try out for the rowing team. She figured she had nothing to lose, so she gave it a shot. There was a two week trial period at the beginning of the school year which she enjoyed so she decided to stick with the sport.
Rowing was unlike anything the Athol, Mass., native had ever done before so there was a steep learning curve. It is a sport of technique, and she had to figure out how to perform at a high level.
"It took a while to get comfortable," McKean said. "For a lot of my freshman fall, I was a little unsure of myself. I've made a lot of strides from having no idea at all to feeling comfortable in the boat to feeling like I belong."
Now McKean is an important member of the second varsity eight boat and one of the fastest members of the team, according to the coaches. McKean hoped she could have an impact but she never expected to become such an integral part of the squad, considering she has been rowing for less than two years.
"One thing that [the coaches] always say is that they believe in us more than we believe in us," McKean said. "Even when we are just starting out, they believed that we have the potential to improve and they continue to push us even when we don't think we can take that next step. They encourage us to really go for challenging goals."
Another factor that played into McKean's choice to ultimately commit to the team was her academics. She knew that joining the team would be a major time commitment. As a presidential scholar, McKean puts a great emphasis on her work in the classroom. For her, it all comes down to balance.
"I don't have as much time to watch TV but I make it a priority to get my work done when I'm not at practice," McKean said.
In addition, McKean, an aspiring teacher, also works as a tutor with the BC Neighborhood Center. The experience is providing her with valuable experience for her career goals.
She has had success in her balancing act as she has thrived academically and athletically at the Heights. McKean sees the success the team has had as making all of the hard work worth it. Everybody gives their all to create a sense of community on the team and makes the victories even more special.
McKean's new challenge is now that she is more acclimated to the sport, she must keep up the effort level at all times to continue to improve.
"On those days when you don't necessarily want to do it, you still have to be there and give 100 percent," McKean said. "You know that it is going to be worth it in the end. You have to do it for the other people in your boat even when you're tired."
As her second season as an Eagle winds down, McKean hopes to see herself continue to grow as a rower because she knows she has not learned everything in her first two years. She also hopes to see the team win more races in the future and compete at an even higher level.
Written by senior Eddie Lockhart