Sept. 8, 2011

The Off the Water series provides a “Getting To Know” piece on members of the University of Notre Dame rowing team in an effort to share with the fans details of what makes each of the athletes who they are outside of the realm of competition.

Kelly Gawne is preparing to begin her inaugural season with the University of Notre Dame women’s rowing team. Though not having competed with the squad to this point, the Burke, Pa., native sees great potential for the 2011 BIG EAST Champions, a streak that now spans eight years, and a special bond that the team shares both in competition and in life. Here is a chance to get to know Kelly Gawne:

What stood out to you about Notre Dame that helped you know this was the place you wanted to attend?

“I checked out some pretty impressive programs in high school and though I can’t say the boathouse was what sold me, the atmosphere at Notre Dame drew me here. I wanted a school that would become my family, a student body driven by a search for an identity rather than just success, and let’s be serious the team’s not too bad either. The first time I visited campus a girl dropped her books in the middle of the quad. Everyone froze–some stopping mid-sentence–until someone ran up to help her. You don’t get a lot of that in D.C.”

When not rowing or taking care of schoolwork, what is the one thing you enjoy doing with your free time?

“I like to sing in the shower, albeit rather loudly and out of key. I also tend to devour books and was quite depressed when contemplating which of my old favorites would fit in the car (So long 500 page Brontë collection!).”

What is the most peaceful place to go to on campus?

“To try and avoid the stereotypical Grotto answer (though it’s the answer because it’s true!), I’d say just about any chapel. I was having a bad day and stumbled upon an empty chapel. I just turned on the lights and sat there for a while–really clears your head. Even if you’re not religious there’s a certain solace in places like this that helps put things in perspective.”

What is the best place to eat on campus?

“I have to admit I was a South-er coming to campus because my host lived in South quad, but as fate would have it I ended up in a dorm that is a 15 minute walk from South. Now, however, I think I can reasonably say North is better. Better `noms.’ But if we’re talking about real human food (though the dining hall food is fantastic, don’t get me wrong) it’s Recker’s all the way.”

What is the greatest thrill about rowing for the Irish?

“As a Frosh I hardly know thus far–everything’s a rush from getting our first issue gear to getting on the St. Joe River for the first time. At this point, though, I’m most excited about our potential because I know this season has so much in store for us.”

What is the most rewarding thing to you about rowing, in general?

“Seeing a boat evolve. The first time the crew gets together it’s always rocky–you’re still getting used to each other’s quirks. But the longer you row together you learn to give up more and more of yourself until you’re not nine girls in a boat but an efficient, precise and powerful rowing machine. Now that is a crew.”

What makes the group of girls on this team special?

“Family. I don’t know if it’s an atmosphere that’s seeped in from the University or rowing in general but more than any other place I saw girls who–when push came to shove–were a family in the truest sense: supportive, aspiring and determined.”

Was there any one person who was inspirational/motivational to you being where you are today and if so what was the best piece of advice they offered up to you?

“I suppose my whole family inspired me. Dad’s a Naval aviator with a son following in his footsteps. Mom’s an ICU nurse with a daughter taking a leaf out of the same book. If I wanted to match their civic and moral dedication, become the person I want to be, there was nowhere else but Notre Dame. I think the best advice they gave wasn’t advice at all; it was a model.”

If you had to choose between watching your favorite movie or listening to your favorite CD which would you choose and why?

“CD. I love movies and sometimes you just need to curl up and check out, but there’s only so much you can get from watching a movie over again. Music can be rediscovered every time you hear it.”

Growing up, and maybe even still today, what was the one type of cereal that you had to have and why?

“I’m not a big milk fan so cereal falls by the way side for me. I do love a handful of Cracklin’ Oat Bran for a snack though, even if that does make me sound like a 60-year-old woman.”

If you were trapped on an island, what are the three things that you would need to have with you and why?

“My favorite answer to this is Michael Phelps, a gold medal and a saddle. More realistically I’ll just take a yacht.”

If you could have dinner with any three people, dead or alive, who would you choose and why?

“The first would be Oscar Wilde because he’s ridiculously witty and brilliantly smart. I wish people still spoke like that today. (By the way if you ever need someone fluent in 19th century syntax I got your back).

Second would be Ted Dekker because his novels taught me more about my faith than I ever learned in Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (They have a bit more martial arts, too).

And finally Father Hesburgh because someday I hope I can do as much for something as he’s done for this University.”