Virginia rower Lizzie Trull (Wellesley, Mass) helped the Cavaliers to three ACC championships and was a two-time All-ACC Academic team honoree. Trull and her sister, Julia, were set to begin their first and only season together before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 spring season. Hoos Life caught up with Trull, who will graduate this spring, to discuss the impact of the coronavirus, Virginia rowing, her relationship with Julia and what’s keeping her busy during the pandemic.
Q: What was your reaction when you learned that the rowing season had been canceled due to COVID-19?
Trull: On a Thursday at 3 p.m. sitting outside the Virginia boathouse, my coach (Kevin Sauer) announced that the ACC had decided to suspend the season until the beginning of April. This meant that we would not be allowed to practice together as a team until at least that date. When he announced the news, my heart broke. Completely broke. This meant that the morning practice had indeed been my last. I felt empty inside at the news. I felt my world crashing around me as my career as a rower which I had so carefully built up over the past almost 10 years came to a premature halt. My whole team was teary eyed and shocked at the news. There is truly no way to prepare for news like that, even if you can “see” it coming. It came out later that afternoon that the NCAA had fully canceled all spring sports and NCAA athletics for the rest of the year, and just like that, my rowing career had officially ended.
My greatest heartbreak stems from the sad reality that my sister Julia, a freshman on the team, and I will not be able to race together in college. We only rowed in the same boat a handful of times. We will never have the opportunity to compete together in the Virginia uniform, something I had been so excited for from the day she committed to row at UVA in high school. I feel blessed to have had at least a short time with her at Virginia, and we have become incredibly close for it. It has also been a blessing having her at home with me during this time of quarantine because she can truly empathize with me and understand my loss. Even after half a year of college rowing, she understands how incredibly hard this news has been for me to process, and thus, she has been a beacon of support and positivity for me. She has been a part of the sisterhood that was the Virginia rowing team. She knows the longing that I feel for the people who I call my best friends and the sport that I call my passion.
I can only describe my feelings as similar to those when one suffers a loss. I am still devastated and overwhelmed. Rowing in college was my greatest and proudest achievement and accomplishment. Each morning, when my alarm woke me up at 6 a.m., it certainly didn’t feel like a blessing. However, I have since realized that every day I spent with my team and coaches on the water, in the gym, in the dining hall, and on countless buses driving all over the country, was a blessing. I went to college with one sister, and I have graduated with over 60 sisters. I have also left college with something to show for it. I dedicated an average of 20 hours per week into something that had become more than a sport, but a way of life for me. It has been the most formative and rewarding experience of my life. I did not get the closure or peace that I feel I deserve after dedicating nearly half of my life to the sport, but I continue to search for the silver linings.
Q: What were the rowing programs’ goals for the 2020 spring season?
Trull: My team had set our sights on winning our 20th ACC title in May and were excited to earn the opportunity to compete at the NCAA Championships. Besides these results, our goal was to foster a supportive and competitive team culture which would challenge each of us to achieve individual and team success that we had not previously believed was possible. We understood that this was the key to reaching our results and performance goals. The rowing team has always set ambitious goals for the end of the season championships, but we never forget the process that make these end-goals possible.
Q: Your sister Julia joined the Virginia rowing program in 2019-20. How much did you enjoy rowing with her and having her on Grounds with you?
Trull: Having my sister at UVA with me, although just for a short time, was the best part of my final season and fourth year of college. We are incredibly close, as our bond of rowing, school, and our shared group of friends, has only grown stronger. We spent many hours together, in and out of practice. We have many shared memories and experiences that will last a lifetime, and I will never forget the way my heart filled with happiness when I saw her walking across the lawn with her friends, or ready to row at 6 a.m., or through a classroom window, or across the water in a Virginia boat. She would always give me a cheer and a smile when I rowed by and would call out for me. It made me pull harder, as I was taking those strokes for her. Although we were only able to row in the same boat a handful of times, those were the practices that I will never forget. I am incredibly proud of what she has been able to accomplish at UVA and am excited to see how far she can go in the next three years.
Q: You are a five-time Dean’s list honoree and have received numerous conference and national academic accolades. How important is a Virginia education to you and your family?
Trull: A Virginia education is incredibly important to me and my family. When I was first starting the recruiting process in high school, my parents emphasized the “broken leg test.” They asked me to really think about and evaluate my college options based on the school and the academic offerings, not simply the rowing program. I was intrigued by the McIntire School of Commerce and saw the value in two years of a liberal arts education before pursuing a B.S. in commerce. I saw myself being able to succeed at the school, and obviously the nationally-ranked rowing program, incredible coaching staff, and amazing team was a bonus.
Q: Are you coming back to Virginia for a fifth year due to the season cancellation? If not, what are your plans for next year?
Trull: I will not be returning to Virginia for a fifth year because I am moving to New York in July to start a full-time position as an investment banking analyst at Goldman Sachs. I interned at the firm last summer and was offered the full-time position.
Q: What are your fondest memories of rowing at Virginia and competing for Coach Sauer?
Trull: My fondest memories of rowing at Virginia are the times I spent with my teammates on and off the water. I was fortunate to be surrounded by some of the most impressive, driven, hardworking, supportive and passionate women in the world. These women shaped me into the person I am today: confident, poised, determined, and ready and eager to take on any challenge that is thrown at me. I will never forget the nights spent watching “Survivor” at Coach Sauer’s house, snuggled up on his couch with my teammates, eating the best desserts (courtesy of his wonderful wife Barb), sharing stories about the week’s classes and happenings, and truly appreciating each other’s company. As a group of more than 60 women, we were all incredibly different, from our home countries to our experience with rowing to our college majors. However, we were all united by our common goals and passion for the sport. One moment, we were directly competing with each other and the next we were fearlessly fighting alongside each other to a victory across the finish line.
Rowing for Coach Sauer was one of my greatest honors. He is an incredible man. I believe that he has been so successful because of his progressive and timeless coaching philosophy. He emphasizes the importance of developing his rowers into good people, not simply good rowers. Kevin Sauer coaches his athletes to be strong, gritty, resilient and confident women on and off the water. It was truly an honor rowing under his guidance and learning from him. I will never forget the life lessons that he taught me about character and the passion that he showed for the sport and for his athletes. He deeply cares about everyone who makes the commitment to the team and the sport, and in turn, he dedicates himself to their development and growth.
Q: What are you going to miss most about attending and rowing at UVA?
Trull: I will miss the UVA community the most. I already miss all of my friends and teammates who were key to my personal and athletic development and growth. I will miss the football games in the fall, the basketball games in the winter and the rowing races in the spring. I will miss the countless hours spent on the water with sweat dripping down my face, while pushing myself to my physical and mental limits because I knew that the teammate in front of me was doing the same. I will miss seeing my sister every day and watching her grow into the person and athlete that she is becoming. I will miss the change of seasons and sitting on the Rotunda steps admiring the busy lawn full of students playing soccer, trick-or-treating, doing homework, or simply hanging out with their friends. I will miss the 6 a.m. wake-up calls, and blisters on my hands, and the long, silent drive home from a tough practice. But most importantly, I will miss the team huddles and that feeling of pure joy after accomplishing a hard practice or winning a race. And finally, I will miss the unbreakable bond that I was able to develop with my teammates and best friends while doing one of the things that we all love most in the world: rowing.
Q: What advice have you given your sister and what advice would you give to first-year rowers in 2020-21?
Trull: I have advised my sister to never take a moment for granted. As cliché as that sounds, if I have learned one thing; it is that UVA is a special place. It is the place where I learned the most and the place where I was challenged to become the best version of myself. I implore her to make the most of each interaction that she has in the classroom, in the dining hall and at practice. It is not the individual classes or practices that she will remember. It is the people and the relationships that she is able to cultivate that will last a lifetime.
To all the class of 2020-21, I would beg them to never wish it away. Never count down the days or the weeks or the months. Never wish to skip to fourth year or wish away the school year. It all goes by so fast by itself. The only regret I have is the time I spent worrying about trivial matters instead living and appreciating what I had in the moment. Rowing and school may seem impossible at times, but you can overcome these challenges and they will be the moments that shape you. What I would give for one more practice, even if I had to set my alarm for 6 a.m., one more team huddle, one more long bus ride, one more blister or callus, one more breathless, rushed swig from my water bottle in the middle of practice, one more technical critique from my coach, one more fight to the finish line with my teammates and one more hard fought victory with the people I love and respect most in the world. Take it slow, find your groove, and make Virginia yours. If you do, it will give you something special in return.
Q: Where are you living and how are your online classes going?
Trull: I am living at home in Boston with my mom, dad and sister. Online classes are going smoothly, although I really miss the experience of being in the classroom with my peers and professors. As the McIntire experience is very group project focused, there have been many instances since being home that I wish I was able to be back at school meeting in person with my group instead of being virtual. I miss the person-to-person interaction.
Q: What else are you doing during #Social Distancing?
Trull: During this time of social distancing, I have been redefining my identity since I am no longer a student-athlete. I am training for the New York City Marathon in November, so I have been doing a lot of running and spinning. I have been studying for the GMAT and taking my online classes. I have gotten to spend a lot of time with my family, which has been a blessing because I would not have had this valuable time with them in the short month between the end of school and starting my job in New York. My whole team has weekly Zoom calls together with the coaches, which are a highlight of my week. We share our quarantine stories and ideas for making each day a little brighter.
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