Columbus, Ohio – Summer is a time to wind down for most college students, but not for Cassandra Johnson, a member of the women’s rowing team at Ohio State. Johnson spent her summer going through grueling workouts with the USA rowing team in preparation for the World Rowing U23 Championships held in the Netherlands.
The process, of even being selected to the team, is a rigorous one that makes the end result that much sweeter.
“The whole process is a long one, but in the end, it’s worth it,” Johnson said. “You get to camp, but before that you have to be selected first by submitting scores. Once you get there, the scores matter a little bit, but more importantly, it’s how well you move the boat and how well you move it with other teammates.
“We have this thing called seat racing and you are selected into the boat and that takes about a month. After that selection process, we had about a month to race as a team and then compete at World’s. America does it a little bit different than other countries. For instance, other units are assembled in December, but for us, we get thrown together for one summer and just go with it.”
The qualifying round for the Americans in the women’s eight went as smooth as possible and they sailed into the final round with the top qualifying spot. The finals came, and dominance. The United States took gold covering the 2,000m race with a time of 6:36.90. Johnson and her teammates ousted the competition by more than seven seconds to claim gold.
“The whole experience was amazing, and to cap it off with a gold made it even better,” Johnson mentioned.
Fast forward 20 days after winning gold at the U23s, and Johnson is back in Columbus rowing away with her Scarlet and Gray teammates. It’s something she cherishes, and she is well aware of the special bond with her teammates she has developed in her two years here already.
“I love how we do not shy away from excellence here at Ohio State,” Johnson notes. “We are not daunted by the intensity or the work that it takes. I love that we do everything together as a team.
“It became very apparent this summer, that we are truly a very unified team. Winning is so much more special when you do it with your friends, who feel more like family, and I think that’s what makes the experience at Ohio State unparalleled.”
Not only do the athletes respect each other, but they have a tremendous amount of admiration for head coach Andy Teitelbaum as well.
“Coach Teitelbaum demands a lot of respect…it’s really easy to respect him because he knows what he is doing and wants the best for us,” Johnson mentions. “During practice he is very much a coach, but he is a great friend outside of rowing as well. He does a very good job balancing the relationship between competition and real life.”
One would think winning a gold at U23s might bring some about some complacency in an athlete, but not for Johnson. It’s back to the grind with her favorite group of people, her teammates.
“We have two-a-days right now and everything,” Johnson notes. “You have to be smart with what you eat, with how you recover and your sleeping schedule as well. Here at Ohio State, we like to be in rhythm all year long.”
Johnson, a rising junior, realizes what the sport of rowing has done for her and it serves as motivation for everything she does. A member of the 2015 national championship team as a freshman, Johnson has grown more deliberate in how she acts and the kind of impact she can have on her teammates.
“Jumping in freshman year was an experience that was a lot different from high school,” Johnson says. “I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I kind of just followed the team and Coach Teitelbaum, and it ended up leading to a national championship.
“It was kind of a blur…I just came in everyday and did my work. This year though, I’m a lot more intentional with how I’m doing everything and Coach Teitelbaum has taken a more aggressive approach.”
Johnson, along with her teammates, will be pursuing greatness this fall and next spring to help create memories that will last forever.
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