Chelsea Simpson (Carlisle, Pa.), a junior on the UVa rowing team, recently checked in with VirginiaSports.com to preview the remainder of the regular season and the Cavaliers' quest for a second-consecutive NCAA Championship. Simpson and Virginia take on Notre Dame and Louisville on May 15 in Oak Ridge, Tenn.
Question: After a break from competition this weekend for final exams, the team has one last regular-season competition (Notre Dame and Louisville) before the 2011 NCAA Championships. How will the team prepare for the final push of the season?
Simpson: This time of year is kind of crazy with final exams and papers, not to mention everyone has different schedules, but this is the time of year that we normally gain a lot of speed, so I am expecting the coaches to have some intense workouts up their sleeves. This upcoming races against Notre Dame and Louisville are going to be a good experience to get some more boats across. I believe we're trying to get a few more teams so we're able to race six boats across which will be good to have under our belts before going into NCAAs since most of our races throughout the season have been two-boat races. Most importantly though, we're going to take the next few weeks one day at a time and focus on gaining speed everyday.
Question: You were a member of the 2010 NCAA Champion Varsity Four - can you recap that experience and how it felt on the medal stand?
Simpson: It is hard to put that experience into words, while it was going on and for a while after, I mean even now, it seems somewhat surreal. After the fours race, which goes first on the last day of NCAAs I was just so ecstatic, I couldn't believe what had just happened. Then watching the Varsity Eight come down the race course knowing what was in our grasp as a team was probably the most nervous and excited I was all day and when they crossed the finish line and we knew that we had won the team title I was in absolute awe, I remember saying to someone that the Varsity Four title was absolutely amazing but winning the team title was indescribable. We work so hard everyday from August to the end of May and it's just an extremely gratifying feeling to know all of the hard work and time one has put into this sport can pay off.
Question: This past weekend at No. 1 Princeton, the Varsity Four was able to earn the victory over the top-ranked Tigers. How was it racing against the top-ranked team on its home course and how good did it feel to get the win?
Simpson: As a boat we have been working on rowing our race and not being phased by any other boat. In rowing there is no such thing as defense, there is nothing we can do to slow the other boat down so as a boat it is important to row your race. I don't think we went into the race thinking we're racing the No. 1 team, we went into the race determined to row the best race we were capable of. Obviously it is always great to finish with a win!
Question: What has been your most challenging or rewarding experience this season?
Simpson: I would have to say the most challenging experience of the season has been rebounding from a few tough races. There are two ways to come back after losses and I think that after each one we have come to practice the next day or week fired up and ready to go. There's no time for a day off if we want to get faster and I am encouraged by our performance thus far.
Question: You have been in the program for three seasons, first as a novice then last year and now this season. How has your role changed as you have become an experienced upperclassman?
Simpson: As a novice I was terrified of what I had gotten myself into, my high school program was miniscule and I had never done nearly the same amount of work on a team that we were doing at UVa. And last year I feel that I began to find my groove and place within the team. But, this year I have discovered that I have some knowledge and understanding of what's going on, granted this can change in two seconds, but as an upperclassman I feel that I understand what the program is about and our goals in a way I hadn't before. I hope, as an upperclassman, I can help feed the fire. I make it my goal to try to always be positive at practice and keep everyone around me positive. That's the only way we'll keep getting faster!
Question: Being from Pennsylvania, what made you choose to come to UVa?
Simpson: I actually am not originally from Pennsylvania, my dad moved there my senior year while I was at boarding school in Connecticut from New Jersey and my mom was living in New York City, so Pennsylvania did not hold any significant attachment for me. However, when I first was thinking about UVa, I literally did not know a single thing about the school and I considered Virginia to be another country. I was set on going to school somewhere in the northeast, however, the appeal of the amazing program and coaches forced me to visit and the second I arrived in Charlottesville I knew that UVa was the school I wanted to go to. Everyone on the team was so welcoming and nice, the coaches are unbelievable and it is the prettiest school in the country with significantly warmer winters than Connecticut.
Question: What is your major and your favorite class?
Simpson: I am a psychology major and I would have to say that my favorite class I have taken at UVa was history of the circus, it's just a fun class and we got to go the circus and meet clowns.
Question: What is something people might be surprised to find out about the rowing team?
Simpson: That we own clothes other than Nike running shorts.
Question: What is your first rowing memory or how did you get involved in the sport?
Simpson: My first rowing memory is actually the first day I was on the water, I was in eighth grade and my school required that we participate in an extracurricular activity. I chose rowing because I have no hand-eye coordination so softball and tennis were out of question and there was the added bonus of getting tan, while obviously wearing sunscreen. Needless to say, the first day was not pretty, I literally did not get my blade in the water once, I thought that it was a lost cause and I'm pretty sure my coach did as well.
Question: Who are some of the people that have influenced your athletic career?
Simpson: I think that my family is just the cat's meow so obviously they have been unbelievably influential. They are so supportive driving many hours to races and encouraging me to keep working harder to achieve my goals even when I didn't know if I could do it. Another influential person in my rowing career is one of my high school coaches, Libby Peters, I had never met someone who loved rowing so much and was so willing to do anything to be the best they could be. She inspired me daily to want to challenge myself to be better.