Q & A With Summers Nelson
Summers Nelson, a junior rower from Kansas City, Mo., recently checked in with VirginiaSports.com to give her perspective on the season and upcoming postseason races. No. 11 Virginia heads to South/Central Regionals in Oak Ridge, Tenn., on May 16 and 17.
Question: The team followed up a second-place finish at the ACC Championships with an incredible performance against Harvard, USC, Gonzaga and Northeastern in Boston, Mass. Do you feel like there is a sense of momentum heading into South/Central Regionals?
Nelson: I think there is definitely a sense of momentum heading into Regionals. All the boats showed great fight in Boston, coming from behind off the start, which showed that we have a lot of resiliency on our team. I think if anything, everyone gained a lot of confidence that we can do this and we will figure this out. To be honest, we were pretty disappointed after ACC’s. This was the first year we had not won so the bus ride home was a long one, to say the least. The hardest part was knowing that we did not row up to our potential or race like we know we can. But Clemson showed up ready for us and they were ultimately the better team that day. That was an interesting week because we were only home two days before heading to Boston, which is a quick turnaround for us. I was amazed at how we were able to put ACC’s behind us and look to taking on some fast schools in Boston. We still have more than a week until South/Centrals so we have time to build on that confidence and gain more speed.
Question: What is your major? Do you have a favorite class at UVa?
Nelson: I am in the Comm school and concentrating in finance and marketing. This year has been my favorite year by far because I’ve finally been able to take classes on business topics that I am really interested in. I don’t really have one favorite class at UVa because I’ve taken such a variety and in the Comm school the courses are really interconnected. I always enjoy the topics regarding consumer behavior. Next year I’m excited to take Negotiating for Value and also International Marketing with Professor Lucien Bass. Both are supposed to be really good!
Question: Being from Kansas City, did you always know you wanted to come to Virginia? What sorts of things went into your decision?
Nelson: I visited Virginia when I was a sophomore in high school and just knew that it was the place for me, it just felt right. In terms of rowing, I was looking for a program that would push me to the next level, despite knowing that I’d be a ‘small fish in a big pond’ and coming from a team with five girls to a team with over 60 very talented rowers, it definitely felt like a huge pond! The coaches were extremely important to me in my decision and after meeting both [head coach] Kevin [Sauer] and [associate head coach] Steve [Pritzker], I knew that they really cared about their athletes as people too. The atmosphere here was motivating and inspiring! I also wanted a school known for great academics with an undergrad business school, so Virginia was the perfect fit in that regard. Oh, and probably the most important thing was that there is a store at the intersection where you turn to go to the boathouse and the store is called ‘Summers’ Market.’ My mom thought it was a sign that it was ‘meant to be’ that I go here.
Question: What is your first rowing memory?
Nelson: The first time I ever saw rowing was actually at the Royal Henley Regatta in England, which is one of the most prestigious regattas in the world. I had no idea what was going on and didn’t fully appreciate what I was watching. At that time I was focused on playing basketball. About a year later my dad convinced me to try rowing, which I had no intention of sticking with. My first “practice,” we never actually rowed because the river had risen too high from rain and so we had to fix the dock that day. I’m still not quite sure why I came back for the next practice. But for whatever reason, I did return and can’t imagine life without rowing now.
Question: Your father rowed at Purdue, is he a big influence on your athletic career?
Nelson: Considering that we have two oars hanging on our family room wall at home, I’d definitely say he’s had a big influence on me in terms of rowing. However, he waited until the time was right to even suggest the sport to me. We never really talked about rowing until I was struggling with the next level in basketball. My dad also rowed at the elite level after college, so I really look up to him and all the experiences he had. Most importantly though, he has always encouraged me to set high yet attainable goals for myself and has continued to support those goals.
Question: What is your proudest athletic achievement?
Nelson: My proudest athletic achievement so far has been winning a gold medal at the USRowing club national championships my senior year of high school. I rowed a double with a girl from New York who I had raced a few times in a single. It was the first gold medal anyone from my club had won at nationals so I was pretty excited and was a good way to end high school rowing.
Question: What is the best part about rowing at Virginia?
Nelson: The people. My teammates and coaches are by far the best part. My first year I found it hard to learn to be friends, roommates and teammates while at the same time compete daily against these girls on the water and on the erg. Everyone was so intimidating when I came! Each one of my teammates works so hard, though, that it’s impossible not to be inspired. One thing I’ve noticed is how our entire team gets along so well, which is amazing considering how many of us there are. There have been hardly any personality conflicts or drama and each girl genuinely cares about getting faster and truly wants to be there. It’s that belief in ourselves that is contagious and ultimately will make us successful, I think.
Question: Do you have a favorite Coach Sauer quote?
Nelson: During the winter, we spend a lot of time on the ergs and in the arena running or running stairs. Kevin calls these workouts “money in the bank,” because we cash them out once racing begins and our fitness really shows. Now that we’re in the racing season Kevin will often yell, “Find a way!” or in other words “dig deep.” I think that’s a lot of what rowing is about, being willing to handle the pain just a tiny bit more than the person in the boat next to you. So much of rowing is a mental game.
Question: How is the team preparing for South/Central Regionals? Is it tough to have three weeks off from competition?
Nelson: It’s actually been great to have three weeks off from competition between Boston and South/Centrals. This is the time when we can really train hard and ultimately gain a lot of speed because days aren’t lost to traveling. The interesting thing about rowing is that crews continue to get faster and faster as the season goes on, so we can never settle and results early in the season may not mean much at all. Because of this, South/Centrals will be a real opportunity for us this year so this time period is really important. We train right through finals so we don’t lose any ground. I think having a few weeks without competition also gets us really pumped up for South/Centrals. Once we get through this week of exams, it will be great to be able to concentrate on just rowing. I know everyone on the team is excited to show what we can do.