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May 29, 2013

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Virginia rowing senior co-captain Kristine O’Brien (Massapequa Park, N.Y.) recently talked with about the upcoming NCAA Championships, her favorite moment of her UVa career and more. The national regatta will be held May 31-June 2 on Eagle Creek Park Lake in Indianapolis, Ind.

Question: How would assess the team’s season so far?

O’Brien: So far it’s gone pretty well. Every boat has had its ups and downs, but I think overall we have had a very solid season. We had a challenging schedule and we wouldn’t want it any other way. We’ve already raced a lot of the crews that we’re going to see at NCAAs and it is great that our coaches set up the schedule so well.

Question: Is it bittersweet for you, being your last season?

O’Brien: It’s definitely bittersweet. It’s crazy thinking of last year compared to now. Last year was such a great season and I want this season to be just as great. Looking back at all of my seasons here, I know this one will go really great because Coach (Kevin) Sauer is really setting us up to succeed with the training and as we approach the taper. All of my expectations have been exceeded over my past four years here. Through all of its ups and downs, I never would have believed that I would win two national championships and have a shot at a third.

Question: Was having all four boats do well at the ACC Championships a good boost of motivation?

O’Brien: Winning ACCs was a huge confidence boost for the whole team. This year we’ve had more weeks of training in between race weekends and going into ACCs we had two weekends without racing. After going that long without racing in the spring and having everyone come together and turn up on race day (at ACCs) was a huge confidence boost going into NCAA training. It really set the tone for our training for the past couple of weeks.

Question: How has the training gone the past couple of weeks?

O’Brien: It has gone really well. The coaches worked the team hard the first week and the second week has definitely been really hard. Everyone is really excited for the taper, when we get our legs back under us and get our energy back. During a lot of the pieces (training exercises), Coach Sauer has been encouraging us by letting us know that while we’re really tired right now, we’re still showing some good speed. We’re all really excited to see what speed we can bring once we are rested and have our legs back.

Question: Is there one moment from your four years rowing at UVa that you will remember more than any other?

O’Brien: Winning NCAAs last year. That was my most memorable sporting achievement ever. Coming into the last 500 (meters), we knew we just had to keep going and that no one was going to take that title away from us. Crossing the finish line and hearing the loudest crowd I had ever heard was incredible. At that time when we crossed the finish line, we only knew that we won the Varsity Eight, which had never been done at UVa, but in actuality we had won our second team national title, which was beyond exciting. Looking back on that, I will never ever forget that day.

Question: What will you tell the newcomers who are going to be experiencing their first NCAA Championship?

O’Brien: There are a lot of good crews out there and it’s going to be challenging racing for us. Over the past four years, a lot of teams have grown in depth. In my first year we were one of the deepest teams, but now there are five or six teams that could really take home the title. Beyond performing, I think it’s important for them to embrace it and enjoy the experience. We won NCAAs my first year, but it’s kind of a blur. Last year, I remember telling the team the night before to embrace the racing, embrace the middle of the race and embrace the pain because it’s an experience we will never have again after these four years. Being able to race in the national championship is an opportunity that a lot of people don’t get and I think sometimes we take that for granted. Taking a step back and looking at how much we have worked for this, just embrace the experience and the opportunity.

Q: What is next for you after Virginia?

O’Brien: I have one more summer of eligibility for the under-23 national team, so I’m heading to the U.S. selection camp two days after the NCAA final. I will be training in Princeton, N.J., trying to make a boat for the World Under-23 Championships in Linz, Austria, this summer. After that, I plan on training full time because I have National Team aspirations and I will see how far rowing will take me.

Question: Is rowing at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 a possibility?

O’Brien: Yes, Rio is 100 percent a dream I’m working towards. I’m going to keep rowing for at least the next three years and maybe more, but yes, I would love to represent the United States at the Olympics.

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