Sophomore Kaity McCullough (Campbell, Calif.) recently sat down with VirginiaSports.com to talk about competing in the San Diego Crew Classic in high school, winning the Varsity Four grand final with the Cavaliers this year and more.
Question: How was winning the grand final in the Varsity Four at the San Diego Crew Classic?
McCullough: It was awesome. It's always fun to come out with a medal, especially at the Crew Classic because they only give out first-place medals. I competed in Crew Classics every year in high school and I love the race. It's kind of like the Head of the Charles of the West Coast, so it was really fun to be there and winning was the cherry on top.
Question: In Saturday's race, UVa came from behind to win by inches and on Sunday, you won by more than a boat length, what was the difference between the races?
McCullough: I think we approached Sunday differently than Saturday. It was top two to qualify on Saturday, so we knew what we needed to do to get into the grand final. I think we weren't completely prepared for UCLA to be as fast as they are and that kind of shook us in the beginning. We got our stride back in the end and we made sure we did what we needed to do, which was win. First place sets you up lane-wise for the grand final much more than second place. The heat winners get lanes 1-2-3 and the second places get 4-5-6. You want to make sure you do everything you can to place yourself in a competitive advantage for the grand final.
We weren't expecting them (UCLA) to be that fast, but once we got our legs under us we were able to pull that one out. On Sunday, we came in with a ‘there's no way (we're losing)' attitude and we were able to do what we can do and get off the line as fast as possible.
Question: You were also a part of the Varsity Four that earned second at the 2011 NCAA Championships, what about the four do you like better than the eight?
McCullough: I love the four. In high school, I always rowed eights and occasionally rowed fours, but here we practice so much more in a four that I'm used to it. Personally, I feel more connected in a four because you're one of two people on your side instead one of four (in the eight). You can feel your impact much more and see what a difference you are making technique-wise as well as power-wise. It's a heavier load than the eight, so that adds to feeling more connected and effective. It's a great boat to race.
Question: Did growing up in California and competing in the San Diego Crew Classic when you were younger give you any extra motivation to win?
McCullough: In high school, Crew Classic's were such a big deal. It was the Crew Classic, regionals and nationals; those were the big races of the year. I remember being in high school and seeing all the college crews and thinking, ‘they're so amazing, athletic and competitive." I never thought that I would be able to one day compete at that level and be at the Crew Classic, so it was a lot of fun.
Question: How did you get into rowing?
McCullough: It's actually a pretty funny story. I used to be a competitive cheerleader and I stopped that after sixth grade and I was just working out by myself, because I always liked being athletic. My mom said I needed a team sport, so she had heard of rowing from friends and signed me up. I still distinctively remember the day she was driving me up for registration and practice and I said, "Mom, there is no way I'm going to row, this is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard of. Who does this? There is no way." And she said to try it for two or three weeks and if I didn't like it after that, I could quit, but I just had to try it. So I tried it and here I am nine years later, still rowing around. So thank you Mom, for making me do it!
Question: How did you end up coming across the country to UVa?
McCullough: I actually only looked at East Coast schools. I love the East Coast and had been out here a couple of times. I had never heard of UVa before starting the college recruiting process, but my high school coach told me, "here's this team, they're really good, they've been historically good." The year that I signed was the year they won NCAAs. It sounded good, so I gave it a shot and here I am. I love it.
Question: What is your favorite class you've taken so far at Virginia?
McCullough: My absolute favorite class is a British novel class. I'm a very math person, but I love British novels in general and all we would do is read the books and talk about them. It was really fun and I enjoyed it.
Question: What is your favorite part of Grounds?
McCullough: I love the Lawn, its gorgeous and is the epitome of UVa. There are some days when my friends and I will sit out and people will be throwing the Frisbee around, dogs are out and it's just so picturesque. I love it. Also, I love going to the Corner and sitting on the top of a coffee shop and look out on Grounds and do my studying.
Question: What are your goals for the rest of the season?
McCullough: My personal goal and the goal of the whole team is a national championship. We have it in us this year, we have the talent and we have the drive. I think we can do really well and we've shown we can do really well. With how well we did at the San Diego Crew Classic is a good indicator and it left us hungry. We still have places to improve and things to work on, but it definitely showed us that we're in the running that we can really do it. It's exciting.