Q & A With Claudia Blandford
Claudia Blandford, a senior captain from Winnipeg, Canada, has rowed with the Varsity Eight this season and recently checked in with VirginiaSports.com to preview the team’s quest for the 2011 ACC Championship. The conference regatta takes place on Saturday, April 23, at 9 a.m., on Clemson’s Lake Hartwell. Live video of the races will be available at VirginiaSports.com.
Question: Rowing against three ranked opponents this past weekend on back-to-back-to-back days, how will the team prepare for another test this week at the ACC Championships? What is the feeling after a tough weekend of competition?
Blandford: We will most likely prepare by continuing to go hard these next couple days to maintain fitness, focus and mental sharpness. Our program has historically trained through a lot of our tougher, mid-season competitions so that we peak right in time for NCAAs. That being said, ACCs is most definitely an important race, and I expect that the coaches will back off a bit on Thursday and Friday to give us time to recover for the ACC Championships on Saturday.
Question: How did it feel when it was announced you would be a 2011 captain? How do you think your leadership has grown since you have been at Virginia?
Blandford: I definitely felt flattered and honored by being elected captain by my teammates, as they are all extraordinarily wonderful people and their respect means a lot to me. My leadership has grown significantly since I’ve been at Virginia, as I started here in absolute awe, and in complete dependence, of the 2007-08 fourth-year class and their undeniable collective leadership. Ever since then, I have used people like class of 2008 graduates Kelsie Chaudoin and Mary Eddy as role models and I am striving to be inclusive and productive with my leadership.
Question: As a senior, you have two ACC Championships under your belt. What would it mean to capture a third this weekend?
Blandford: A third ACC Championship will take the obvious things like effort, teamwork and technical precision, but I also believe that to row to the best of our abilities we will need to row with our hearts and commit to each other across the entire team. We respect the Clemson team for always showing up to race with these qualities and I’m looking forward to racing them and raising our standards higher.
Question: At about the midway point of the season, what do you think are the team’s biggest strengths so far?
Blandford: I would say our biggest strength is our overall team chemistry. From the Varsity Eight to the Novice Four, everyone gets along very well, and because of that we are able to work well together across the board. I also believe that this goes hand-in-hand with our depth, and the ability of this team to put together a Third Varsity Eight that’s faster than a lot of schools’ Varsity Eight.
Question: Have you thought about what your plans will be after graduation? What will your degree be in?
Blandford: I will graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. I don’t yet have plans for next year although I am looking into studying biomechanics at the University of Western Ontario, or starting a career in alternative energy or mining engineering. Or biomechanical engineering. Or maybe rowing. Or maybe all of the above? I like leaving my options open!
Question: Being from Canada – what made you choose to come to UVa?
Blandford: Well, the long answer involves a lengthy decision-making process, pros and cons lists, and unlimited advice from friends and family. Ultimately, though, I decided to leave my beloved Canada because UVa offered a talented and cohesive team filled with beautiful and extraordinary teammates. I came for the challenge of Division I varsity rowing on a top-ranked team, and I leave considering this challenge met.
Question: What is the best part about rowing at Virginia?
Blandford: The best part about rowing for Virginia is for sure my teammates.
Question: What is your favorite Coach Sauer quote or saying?
Blandford: My favorite Kevin Sauer quote is probably “Don’t be afraid of it.” It reminds us to take risks and find speed that we may not even know we have.
Question: Looking ahead after ACC Championships, what are some of the team’s goals for the rest of the season?
Blandford: Another NCAA championship is everyone’s goal for the season, but by keeping our focus on smaller, more specific goals we can better prepare for another excellent NCAA showing. Specifically, we will aim to win the ACC Championships and hopefully go on to beat Princeton in a couple of weeks. These goals can be realized by continuing to find speed day by day, week by week and getting more aggressive and confident in our race mentality, all of which will ultimately help us come NCAAs.
Question: Do you have a favorite race course other than the home courses in Charlottesville?
Blandford: I much prefer six-boat races to duels, so probably the course at Oak Ridge, Tenn., is one of my favorite experiences with Virginia rowing for its calm water and well-marked course. I would almost say that I like Lake Natoma (Sacramento, Calif.) the best because we won the NCAA Championship there, except that the wind gets rough occasionally.