Augusta Stratos, a local product and senior rower from Charlottesville, Va., recently checked in with VirginiaSports.com to discuss the team’s upcoming competition at the 2009 NCAA Rowing Championships. Virginia begins its quest for a national title on Friday, May 29 on the Cooper River in Cherry Hill, N.J.
Question: As a senior captain, how does it feel to be heading into your last NCAA Championships?
Stratos: This is going to be my last rowing competition and we have the potential to do something that has never been done in this program, which is to win a team championship, but it is bittersweet as I finish my rowing at UVa. This program has provided me with tremendous opportunity as an athlete and I am grateful for being able to walk-on to a team and pick up a sport I had never tried, find success and make wonderful life-long friends. Right now I am the most excited I have ever been going into this NCAA Championships because everyone has been working so hard and we are all confident in the work that we have done. But, I will miss it.
Question: Can you describe the feelings of the season when you finished second at ACC Championships, but then came back to race well in Boston and follow that up with an overall team title and Varsity Eight victory at South/Central Regionals?
Stratos: Finishing second in the ACC Championships was very hard and very disappointing for us and for our coach, Kevin Sauer. We had nine straight ACC titles and to lose a streak like that is always hard to swallow. On the other hand, we knew that we had many things to work on and also that we had more to give. In some ways I feel that getting second at ACCs actually helped us in the long run. It took away some of the pressure that was cast upon us and allowed us to focus on ourselves and focus on where we needed to improve. The races in Boston showed the rowing world that we weren’t giving up and our continuing determination leading up to the wins at South/Centrals gave us as a team even more confidence. As individuals and a team we did a lot of self-examination and reflection to pull together and win.
Question: Being from Charlottesville, did you always want to go to UVa? What kinds of things went into your decision?
Stratos: I wanted to go to UVa for a very long time. My grandfather played football as an undergraduate and then graduated from the medical school, so the UVa bug had been around for a while. Many of my friends didn’t look at UVa because it is in our hometown, but I thought why pass up a great university? It makes it that much better that I am able to see my family whenever I want. Not only have I received a great education, but I have also gained a UVa family network that stretches around the world.
Question: You went from being a walk-on to an All-ACC performer in the Varsity Eight. Did you expect when you started rowing that you would find this success on the team?
Stratos: I really didn’t even know what rowing was when I walked on the team my first year. I had a strong athletic background and have a strong determination to finish what I start, which I’m sure helped me out, but I had no idea that when I walked onto the team I could potentially be on one of the nation’s best varsity rowing squads. I was so naive about rowing and what a huge sport it was since it does not get much publicity and so few people row in Charlottesville. I can honestly say that this journey has been one of the most rewarding endeavors that I have ever been part of.
Question: What are your plans for the summer?
Stratos: At the moment I don’t have any set plans for the summer. Like many other recent graduates I am still in the stage of trying to find a job. I am also exploring the options for graduate studies after I take a year off. I’ll travel a bit this summer with hopes of finding employment. As for rowing, I probably will not be doing any competitive rowing after NCAA’s, more of just working out on my own.
Question: Did you guys have a special graduation ceremony since you were competing on the day of final exercises?
Stratos: We did have a special graduation ceremony. We got to walk the Lawn the following Monday along with the men’s lacrosse team that also had a game the day before. In a way I feel that our ceremony was even more special than the actual graduation with the entire class. We were able to be with our friends and family and the people who truly understand what we work for and care about us the most.
Question: What do you enjoy in your spare time?
Stratos: Most of our time right now is spent practicing and getting ready for championships, but when we do have down time I really enjoy just hanging low and being with friends.
Question: As a co-captain, how would you describe your leadership style?
Stratos: I think most team captains are looked at as role models for the younger teammates. I like to think that I am someone that the girls are able to talk to when they have a problem or just someone to hang out with. I am known to be a somewhat demanding when I am trying to get stuff together or get things done. It has turned out to be a little joke on the team, but I am just the type of person that likes to have order.
Question: Have you rowed at Cooper River Park before?
Stratos: I have never rowed at Cooper River Park but from what some of the other girls have said it is a great course so I am looking forward to it.
Question: How has the team prepared for NCAAs? Are their any teams or competitors you are especially focused on or is it more of just worrying about yourselves?
Stratos: Since South/Centrals we have been working really hard at practices trying to gain extra seconds of speed by rowing better together and applying our strength at one time. Many of the teams that are going to NCAAs were also at South/Centrals, such as Michigan, Michigan State, Clemson and Ohio State, so we continue to focus on them along with a few teams that we saw at the beginning of the year such as Cal and Stanford. All of the 16 teams going to the NCAAs are strong teams determined to be the champion. Even though we are going to be racing the strongest teams, we have done a really great job this year about focusing inside the boat and worrying about what we have to do to make the boat go as fast as possible. We do race a lot of fast teams, but they have no impact on how we row and move our boat so focusing on ourselves is the most important job.