Jenny Shultis (Lexington, Va.) is a junior member of Virginia's Second Varsity Eight that was named the ACC's Crew of the Week after it defeated fourth-ranked Stanford and third-ranked California. This weekend, Virginia travels to Columbus, Ohio, for races against Ohio State and Michigan on Sunday (April 3).
Question: Rowing with the Second Varsity Eight this weekend in California - the crew went 2-0 with wins against two top-five opponents. How good did it feel to get on the water and compete against another team and how did it feel to start the season with two victories?
Shultis: It felt fantastic to get on the water and start our season off with such a bang. Because it was our first race we really weren't sure how the race would turn out. But we told ourselves we would race every single stroke and fight every meter of the way. It was great to feel our boat come together and power down the course to a win.
Question: Looking ahead to Ohio State and Michigan this weekend, how will the team spend the week preparing?
Shultis: Our team has tremendous heart. I think that's one thing everyone on the team shares. As Coach Sauer says, we are "humble but hungry." So the will to prepare and the will to win is there. This week we are focusing a lot on our technical skills and blade work to make sure that we can mechanically apply our power and get more easy speed. We're still plugging away and getting even more fit and endurance with erging and pieces on the water.
Question: You were a member of the novice program at UVa and have continued in the program to the varsity level. Talk about how you have grown as a rower during your time at Virginia?
Shultis: What's great about rowing for Virginia is that your coaches and teammates, varsity and novice, are behind you every step of the way no matter what boat you are in. I walked on to the team as a novice and had an absolute blast. Honestly I had no clue what I was doing, but I knew that if I worked hard the coaches would give me a shot at a seat. We have to compete for seats like competing for starting lineups. Novice year was really figuring out if I could do this sport and if I wanted to. Second year, and this year, are another level altogether rowing with girls who have been rowing for four plus years and even some collegiate years too. All along the way the team was supportive when I did well and even when I didn't. Like I said, this sport and team is about hard work. There is no status quo on the team, which gives people like me who walked on a chance to show our stuff.
Question: Being somewhat local from Lexington, what made you choose Virginia?
Shultis: People always laugh when they ask where I'm from and I respond "just over the mountains," but I wouldn't want to go to school anywhere else. Virginia has fantastic schools, so I knew I didn't have to go very far to get a great education. I also knew even though I had never rowed before, except for at a couple summer camps, that I wanted to walk on to the team. I talked to the coaches and they were really encouraging so of course I was sold. I knew if I got into UVa that this was the only school I wanted to go to. Actually I didn't really even see the other acceptance letters I got, I only had eyes for dear old UVa!
Question: What are some of the team's goals for this season?
Shultis: I think all sports teams here have NCAAs tattooed on the back of their brains. We're not much different, but we don't harp on it. We're in a unique position because our team won the national title last year, but we know that this is a new year with new people, new line-ups and new competitions. I think our main goal is to be the hardest working team out there with the most heart and the most fight. We don't know what's going to happen, but we know we are going to fight every single meter of every single practice and race to be the best team that we can possibly be.
Question: What is something people might be surprised to know about the Virginia rowing team?
Shultis: We are such a diverse group of people that I'm sure you could ask something of everyone on our team and they could surprise you. What might surprise you, besides the fact that we could probably crush most male athletes in eating competitions, is that we're a pretty involved group of gals. Most people think that student-athletes are just jocks, but our team isn't. We have nursing students, leaders in the Honor Society, Jefferson Society members, tutors, mentors and teammates volunteering in all parts of the UVa and Charlottesville communities.
Question: What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Shultis: I love art, as a lot of my class notes show. Actually my room looks like a kid's room with my paintings up all over the walls because I don't really have anywhere else for them to go. I also love anything outdoors, which is why I think I love rowing so much.
Question: What is your major and favorite class at UVa?
Shultis: I'm an environmental science major. I think I want to do conservation in the long run, but I'm open to pretty much anything. I've taken a lot of great classes through the environmental sciences department, but I think my favorite was ecology and the ecology lab I took. We got to go on lab trips to local rivers to assess water quality by catching species in nets. It reminded me a lot of mucking around in streams as a kid. Maybe that's why I'm in this major; I just want to get my clothes all muddy and play in streams for a living! I also worked at the Eastern Shore Research Facilities that UVa has on the Chesapeake Bay. I really enjoyed that.