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Rowing Q&A with Betsy Nilan

Betsy Nilan

April 30, 2013

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Virginia rowing senior co-captain Betsy Nilan (Milford, Conn.) recently sat down with to talk about the pressure on the team to repeat as national champions, her plans after UVa and more.

Question: What are your overall thoughts on the team's success this year?

Nilan: After San Diego, we came back and we knew what we had to do. We knew we had to change things and had to move forward. We know we aren't ranked No. 1 right now and we know the target isn't on us; it's probably on other schools. We're trying to figure out where to get that speed in the next month and I really think the coaches have come together, come up with a good solution for that and I feel everyone is on board. Everyone is going to do what they can to compete for that national title, so it's really encouraging when we don't win a race and we are able to come together and still be so hungry to win. Our saying right now is, `Everyday, let's go to the hurt locker.' During our race our coxswain made a call and it was `we're entering the hurt locker right now so go for it.' We ended up winning that race, which felt so good. I feel like that's our attitude right now, it doesn't matter how we feel in the next month, beat us up and we'll do whatever it takes.

Question: Do you think winning the NCAA title last year adds pressure on this year's team?

Nilan: I think it does. A lot of other people think it gives us extra pressure than it actually does. It means that we have to step up, because we know people are watching us. That's a little challenging, but we have to try and stay within in our team and do what we have to do without thinking about other people's judgments.



Question: How would you describe your four years at UVa?

Nilan: I love racing. Coming together on race day just means everything and all of my hard work is finally paying off. This year was the first year I was able to race in an NCAA boat. I raced in the 2V8 (Second Varsity Eight) in the fall and now V4 (Varsity Four) in the spring, so the pressure's on, as I want to graduate rowing at an NCAA championship. Things can change, but I'm so determined that I think I will be able to make it happen.

Question: How has it been having your younger sister (Mary) on the team?

Nilan: It's been so great. I cannot imagine a life without my sister here to be honest. She's my best friend and in my second year when she came here it was just so fun. It's actually going to be really sad next year when we're not together for the first time since I went away to college that one year she was home.

Question: What has been your favorite class at UVa?

Nilan: I'm taking a women's gender studies independent study and my topic is `Health Care, Women in Poverty, and their Access to Affordable Health Care.' I've been reading books, doing research and now I'm about to go out into Charlottesville and do some field work, but it's really interesting. I'm really interested in women's rights and unfortunately; I just figured that out this year, so I'm sad that I'm actually leaving.

Question: What is next for you after UVa?

Nilan: I was just accepted into the UK Fellows program, so I will be moving to England in early September to teach geography and coach rowing at Bryanston Boarding School in Dorset, England.

Question: What is the biggest that you have learned from the Virginia coaching staff that you will teach young rowers in England?

Nilan: Definitely attitudes. One thing Coach (Kevin) Sauer is really good about is that rowing is a passion and you're supposed to have many passions in life, but rowing is only one of them. Family, faith and school are a few examples. Yes, rowing is important, and sometimes I've caught myself putting rowing before other things in my life, but you have to manage your priorities. It just takes the pressure off when he says rowing isn't the most important thing in your life. I think bringing that to Bryanston and not being all about pulling down that split time, but being a good person and well rounded is just as important.


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A 1985 graduate of UVA, White worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch until July 2009. He was honored six times as the state's Sportswriter of the Year.

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