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Junior rower Susie Chalker recently checked in with to answer questions about the top-ranked team and the season. Chalker was a member of last year’s Second Varsity Eight that finished sixth at NCAA Championships. The Cavaliers travel to Princeton, N.J., on Saturday (April 17), to compete against Princeton and Yale.

Question: After successful races vs. Ohio State and Michigan, the rowing team is now ranked No. 1 in the country by the CRCA. How does it feel to attain that ranking for the first time in school history? Also – UVa has now had five programs ranked No. 1 in the country (men’s soccer, men’s tennis, baseball, men’s lacrosse and rowing) – how much pride do you feel towards the entire department knowing it has been so successful this year?
: I am really excited about our ranking, it is a big confidence boost to be ranked so high, but at the same time I try not to think about it too much because in the end it doesn’t mean anything if we don’t continue to prove it. I try to just keep focused on the training we are doing now, and continue to work like we are the underdogs. I do think it is really exciting that we have five teams ranked number one, it is really cool to be a part of such a strong athletics program!

Question: Fans got a chance to listen to the “Cavalier Minute” on the Virginia Radio Network and learned that you are interested in designing clothes for female athletes as well as that you designed and sewed a dress for an event. Can you elaborate on that as one of your off-the-water interests?
: I started sewing when I was 15, and I have made roughly 200 pairs of crazy-colored spandex shorts for other rowers. After I graduate from UVa, I am hoping to go to art school and get into clothing design. I would like to design athletic wear, as well as casual wear designed for people with athletic builds because I know that many athletes have trouble finding jeans and shirts that fit well. In February, we had the Pink Dress, which is our annual rowing formal. I made a dress for the event. It was definitely the most difficult thing I have ever made. I had a really fun time making it though and in the end I was really happy with it because I got exactly the dress I wanted. I have started designing the dress I want to make for the Pink Dress next year.

Question: What is your first memory of rowing and how did you get into the sport?
: I started rowing in the fall of my sophomore year of high school. I had not done any sports since seventh grade, and my mom was going to make me sign up for cross country. Well, I hate running more than anything, I did cross country in middle school and would stop when I got tired or out of breath, even during races. I was desperate not to run so my friend Kelsey who was a rower signed me up for crew. I ended up really loving it and wanting to continue rowing through college.

Question: After an off weekend of competition, how has the team prepared for races against top-10 opponents Yale and Princeton?
: It was nice to stay in town this past weekend, not only did it give us a chance to rest up, but it also allowed us to fit in more conditioning and work on specific parts of our race plan, such as the start: the first 30 strokes of our race, and the sprint: the last four or five hundred meters of our race, which is when we bring up the stroke rate.

Question: After that weekend, the Cavaliers head to the ACC Championships after finishing second last year to Clemson. How focused is the team on getting that trophy back to Charlottesville?
: We are very set on winning the team title at ACCs. Coming in second was really disappointing last year so everyone is all fired up to make sure that it doesn’t happen again this year!

Question: What is something people may not know about the rowing team?
r: One thing that people might not know about the rowing team is that it is basically a year-round sport. Spring season is our most competitive season, but we never really have an off-season. We do have most of summer off, but many of the girls row competitively over the summer.

Question: What is your favorite venue to compete at, other than at home?
: My favorite racing venue is the lake in Oak Ridge, Tenn., where we have South/Central Regional Championships. The water is usually calm and the course is well-marked.

Question: Do you have a favorite or funny Coach Sauer quote?
: My favorite serious Kevin quote is “Find a way.” My favorite funny quote is “Hi, special team.”

Question: What is your favorite class this semester?
: My favorite class this semester is philosophy with Professor Cargile, it is a fun class because it is small and the professor really seems to love teaching. The material is always interesting and the class really forces you to think, there is more to it than just memorizing key points from a text book.

Question: Who is your favorite athlete at UVa?
: My favorite athlete at UVa is my friend and teammate Nora Phillips. She is one of the hardest-working people both on and off the water I have ever known. She is a very supportive teammate who keeps everyone around her inspired to keep working.

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