Sept. 27, 2011
Senior rower Morgan Kelley has helped lead the Irish to three BIG EAST conference championships during her three seasons with the program. Notre Dame’s string of eight consecutive conference titles currently is the longest active streak in the BIG EAST. The Windermere, Fla., native has three BIG EAST gold medals to her credit as a member of the varsity eight and second varsity eight boats. This week, she sat down with UND.com’s Maura Jones to tell us more about her experiences as a member of the Notre Dame rowing team.
When was the first time you rowed competitively?
I started rowing competitively when I was a freshman in high school. It was a high school club team and it was comprised of three different high schools in the area. I was planning on playing volleyball in high school, but the boathouse was two miles from my house, and I drove past there every single day on my way to school. I was interested, so I decided to try it out. I did a learn-to-row session and absolutely loved it, so I started rowing.
What brought you to Notre Dame?
I went to Catholic elementary school, so it was kind of ingrained in me to like Notre Dame. I went on a few official visits to other colleges, but Notre Dame felt the best. It had that mystique to it and the Dome, so I choose Notre Dame.
What is your favorite aspect of rowing at Notre Dame?
My favorite aspect of rowing is the sense of team and competing and the teammates that I have the opportunity to row with every day. Everyone on our team really works hard; many of my teammates are walk-ons and good athletes. I think it is kind of cool to be rowing with girls who have been rowing for four years, some who have been rowing for seven years, and some who have been rowing for only two months. Everyone on the team works together to help the novices during their first two seasons. Some of the rowers that begin as novices end up being as good as the varsity recruits.
Where is the best place that you have traveled while you have competed at Notre Dame?
It was definitely somewhere in California, probably San Diego. I really liked going to San Diego, but I also enjoyed when we went to Sacramento. I really like racing in California. I’m from Florida, so my freshman year, the winter was a total shock to me. That year, I really enjoyed our trip to San Diego because the weather was beautiful there; 80 degree, no humidity, sunny, no rain or anything. When we got back to South Bend, we came back to a blizzard. It was early April, and I cried when I got off the bus.
Who has been most influential in your rowing career?
I would say that my head coach, (Martin) Stone, has been most influential person in my career. He brought me in as a freshman. I was kind of a scrawny freshman when I came to Notre Dame and hadn’t done much lifting or anything in high school. He puts a lot of emphasis on power through the stroke, which was something that I always struggled with in high school. It was really cool to come in here as a freshman and right off the bat get my times down just because of the weight lifting that he emphasized. He’s a good coach. He has a good work ethic, and he transfers that to the rest of the team. “Fortitude” was his main word last season.
How do you stay competitive and focused when rowing?
Racing is the prime. We practice so many hours to race, and I get really, really excited to race. I almost have to calm myself down a little bit. Just going down to the racecourse with the rest of the team behind you and getting that blade in together is great. We try to stay really internal for the first minute or so of the race and don’t focus on other boats as we try to just establish our own rhythm.
Does the team have any pre-race rituals? How do you get ready to race?
We have to get the boats down off the racks and flip them over, onto the slings so that we can see the inside of the boat and check our shoes, all of the screws, the rigors, and everything. We have to make sure everything is tight and ready to go. We have a lot of different personalities on the team. There are people like me who like to get pumped up with loud music and then there are some girls who are really quiet and like to be by themselves for the warmup. We usually gather together before we launch and Coach Stone talks to us. We tell each other that we are there for each other that we are backing each other up. We say “don’t freak out, it’s just a race, let’s dominate. Let’s go out there and kick some butt.”
What was your best race?
I’d say last season in Oak Ridge, Tenn. We were racing some pretty stiff competition. We were racing the number one boat in the nation at the time, Virginia, and Clemson also had a good team at the time. We raced really well against those boats. Because we had not gotten off to good starts in our races up to that point in the season, we wanted to get off to as the start really quick and hang as close to them for as long as possible. We were actually ahead of both of them at the midway point of the race before we fell behind. They were (and are) two really great teams, though, and I had a great time racing against them. I was so excited to be up on them at the start. This year, our goal is to be able to hold on to a lead when we are racing against really good teams like that.
What are your expectations for your senior season?
We had a really great group of seniors last year that really focused on keeping our team together. We were all really great friends by the end of last year and had great team chemistry. We want keep that chemistry going this year. At times, our tendency has been to get uptight and nervous before a race, but this year, I am hoping that we won’t be as nervous. We want to go out and win the BIG EAST again this year and definitely want to make the NCAAs. We came up short last year and were really disappointed that we didn’t get a bid. Last year was a great team effort and I am hoping that this year we are able to get an NCAA bid.
How have you grown in your time at Notre Dame?
I’d say I have grown in pretty much every way possible. I came in here as a scared freshman who had no idea what direction I wanted to go in life. Academically, I had a really tough time as a freshman. I think I’ve grown, and I’ve figured out what I want to do with my life now. I started out as chemistry major, and now I am an IT Management major. I really enjoy being in the Mendoza College of Business. I’ve definitely grown spiritually, especially with the Notre Dame Fellowship of Christian Athletes program that we have here. I think I have grown in a way that will help me to do really great things after I graduate. I have learned a lot of great things from being a student-athlete here at Notre Dame — balancing my academic schedule, my rowing schedule, and my social life. I’ve learned and along the way met some awesome people who I will probably stay in contact with throughout my life.
Why did you choose your major?
I wanted to go into business. My Dad runs his own small family manufacturing business, and I wanted to go into management of some sort. I threw in a double major in Arabic. It’s kind of really random, but I really liked my freshman literature seminar course that was Middle Eastern Civilization and Culture. My advisor persuaded me to pursue Arabic as double major and I have been able to learn the language. My primary major — IT management — has allowed me to get the international and business aspects of how things work.
What has been your favorite moment since coming to Notre Dame?
I think it’s just being here at Notre Dame and being a varsity athlete. You have all of these legendary people — Knute Rockne, Lou Holtz and Muffet McGraw — and all of these great coaches. It’s really something, driving up Notre Dame Avenue and seeing the Golden Dome. It’s probably my favorite part of every day, just coming back to campus from rowing on the water and seeing the Dome. Just being a part of the Notre Dame experience and a school that is very good in academics, is faith-based, and also has killer athletic teams.
With whom would you like to trade places for a day?
I’m going to have to say Dean (Carolyn) Woo of the Mendoza College of Business. As a student in that college, I have had the opportunity to see all of the things she has done to make the Mendoza College of Business the best in the country. I’m really sad to see her leave the University to become CEO and president of the Catholic Relief Services. She seems like a really great person, and I think just to be in her position for one day would be really cool and to experience her busy schedule.
What is your favorite thing to do when you have free time?
If I don’t have much to do, I love to go to the dining hall for dinner with a few close friends and staying there for a couple of hours.
What was one of your biggest dreams growing up?
One of my biggest dreams growing up was to be in the Olympics in some sport or another. I loved watching the Summer Olympics and everything. I played just about every sport possible in elementary and middle school. I have just always been an athletic person, and I love that competition. I especially love the NBC Olympic theme song that they play. That always got me really psyched.
What do you want people to remember you for?
I hope people remember me for having a really good work ethic. I’m a really hard worker and a person who likes to have fun. I like establishing relationships with a lot of people, and I hope that people will just remember me for being the goofball who puts everyone at ease.
What has been one of the biggest lessons that you have learned?
The biggest lesson I think has just been to persevere, no matter what the situation. Many of the students that come to Notre Dame have been number one at something in their lives — valedictorian, class president in high school, being really good at a sport in high school, or just really good at something. You come here and you realize that everyone is really good in something. It’s kind of a reality check to Notre Dame; it’s really tough sometimes balancing academics and athletics. There are a lot of times when I have wanted to throw my hands up and quit, but I think the biggest lesson that I have learned here is that everyone is, in some way, going through the same thing. The lesson is when the going gets tough, keep on going. I think that is the number one lesson I have learned.
What do you plan to do after graduation?
That’s still in the works. I have been interviewing with a lot of companies for IT positions and project management positions with several different companies. I also would love to travel and see the rest of the country and the world.
— ND —