Columbus, Ohio - Stephanie Williams is a seasoned veteran on the women's rowing team at Ohio State and her time as a Buckeye has been nothing short of stellar. Williams was a member of the 2014 and 2015 national title squads and she is a three-time national champion on the First Varsity Eight.
Williams, who hails from Australia, is one of over 10 international athletes on the rowing team. As one can imagine, a transition from Australia to America at such a young age can be a bit challenging, but with the help of teammates, the transition was pretty smooth.
"It was a big shock to start with," Williams remembers. "I came to Ohio State at an exciting time for the rowing program, they had just won their first national championship as a team. Coming here, it was crazy because it was literally the opposite side of the world.
"The girls were great and the seniors really helped me along. It was a big adjustment culturally of course, but having other international teammates helped as well. It really made me grow myself too, because I had to be independent and do things on my own."
The fourth-year senior was one of four Buckeyes that was skilled enough to compete at the World U23 Rowing Championships this summer in the Netherlands. Williams represented Australia and it served as an occasion to learn new things while getting to travel to some exotic locations.
"Rowing this summer was a really exciting opportunity," Williams mentions. "It was lots of fun because I got to spend some time with some different athletes and different coaches, and it allowed me to learn a lot more from other people.
"We got to train in Italy, which is an amazing place. It was really interesting racing other countries because the level of competition was insane. I feel like I learned a lot and grew a lot."
Aside from top-notch competition, the World U23 Championships presented a couple of unique situations that allowed Williams to rekindle an old friendship and race against an unexpected opponent.
"I also got to see one of my best friends, Holly (Norton), who I rode with for two years before I came here," Williams notes. "She was on Great Britain's team and I got to catch up with her and see how things were going.
"It was really cool because I was racing Cassandra (Johnson) and we had rowed together all season, so it was kind of weird to be in opposition."
The aforementioned Norton, a former Buckeye, captured gold for Great Britain in the women's four at the World Championships also in Rotterdam. The unexpected opponent
Williams acknowledges that those whom you are closest with on a daily basis have a tremendous impact on your success. Good-hearted, competitive, encouraging teammates will push you to new levels.
"My favorite part of being on the rowing team is definitely the people," Williams says. "They make every day being here easier. They get me through academics and life in general. Having a big bunch of 30 to 40 girls loving everything that you love, and wanting to see you succeed, is the best part about being an Ohio State rower.
"You don't realize how much you miss being here until you are away all summer. It's a lot of fun training with a big group of people and that helps make it easier."
Another intricate piece of the puzzle that allows such a positive culture to be fostered is head coach, Andy Teitelbaum.
"Andy and I have a very good relationship...he is a really good mentor to have," Williams notes. "He is tough on me when it comes to rowing, and that's because he wants the best for me. He is a great person out of rowing to have on your side, and I feel that I can go to him with anything."
Williams is well aware that her time in Columbus as a Buckeye is winding down, but now is not the time to reminisce, that can come later.
"This year being a senior, it is kind of scary to have that responsibility, but it is also exciting to help the others along," Williams notes. "You realize that every day counts when it's your last year. It's exciting and nerve-racking at the same time."
With the season months away, Williams is enjoying all the small stuff by creating memories that will last a lifetime.
"The banter we have on the team before and after practice is priceless, something that I would never trade," Williams says laughingly. "It's just great to be back on the water with everyone and preparing to start racing."