Years later Creighton would move to Washington and have a family. In 2013 her daughter, Frances, joined Sammamish Rowing Association (SRA) and piqued Creighton’s interest in the sport. She said, “my daughter had started as a novice so I did Learn To Row (LTR). I’ve always done sports, but at 5’2” I had never thought of my height as a competitive disadvantage. Luckily my fellow rowers have welcomed me ,and I’ve found my vertical disadvantage can be overcome with hard work and and a good sense of humor.” As someone who loves the outdoors, she also enjoys how immersed in nature the sport is. “On a cold and wet day, when you come off the water soaking wet, we have our beautiful and warm boathouse to come back to”
For three years Creighton was on the mid-morning team, but switched to sculling because it seemed like the right fit for her light weight. SRA has four masters teams so adult members are able to row on the team that best fits their schedule. The teams are known as 5AM, Mid-Morning, Evening Competitive Masters (ECM), and Sculling.
“Rowing anchors my life now,” Creighton commented. Her daughter is off to college at Washington State, but Creighton and her husband Mark share responsibility for managing care for their son with a profound disability. “It’s a tough aspect of my life and it is really nice for me to have something I can count on. At SRA I am with people who make me laugh and bring me joy, which makes it easier to cope with these things.” SRA provides around 2 hours of practice time for our adults. During that time all concerns outside of the boathouse are forgotten and your focus is completely in the boat or on the erg.
Another draw to rowing is the longevity of involvement in the sport. At SRA we have rowers ranging in ages twelve to eighty! Since it is a low impact sport, many people find it to be a great alternative to the sports they used to enjoy but can no longer do for fear of injury. “It’s been really fun to see the people who are ahead of us to keep us going,” Creighton said. She looks up to older rowers and is excited to continue pursuing the sport she loves.
With her years of experience, Creighton had some final advice for new rowers. “Show up,” she said. “When you’re starting something new it can be hard to feel competent, but if you commit to showing up and participating with the team, it makes a big difference. Recognize that there could be people there that might be more serious than you are or better, but make it your own journey.” She also hopes that new members can appreciate how lucky we are with our Hod Fowler Boathouse, completed in 2016. Years of dedicated fundraising from rowers and their families have made it a reality for all new rowers to SRA to enjoy.
SRA is lucky to have members like Ann Creighton who light up our boathouse and add positive energy to their boats. Ann takes times to appreciate all aspects of our sport from the intricacies of technique to the simple wildlife viewings during practice. She can turn an unfortunate moment into a positive new outlook, and she enjoys the laughter she shares with teammates and friends. Thank you Ann for being a ray of sunshine at SRA even when skies are grey.
Our community also includes those who will never row, and those volunteers deserve just as much recognition. While they might not be getting PR’s on 2K tests every few weeks, their contributions can be just as impressive. Such is the case of Vanessa Harder, the SRA Volunteer of the Year for 2018.
Susan Freeberg spoke at the September 2017 mandatory parent meeting that Harder attended (as a novice parent), where Freeberg asked for someone to take charge and manage the food tent at regattas.
Since she was in the 7th grade, Harder has been volunteering, beginning with National Charity League (NCL) which is a mother – daughter philanthropy organization she joined with her mother. Fun fact, Harder and both her daughters have been a part of NCL here in Washington. Her donation of time and devotion to her community continued through high school, college, and up till now. When those emails kept flooding her inbox, looking for an SRA food tent leader, she felt like she should check it out. Harder said, “The thing is that it’s been with me for so long [volunteering] that giving back is part of who I am.” All her life, Harder had always focused on giving back to her community. She has logged far too many volunteer hours to count and has been involved in numerous organizations and sports. “My volunteering resume is more extensive than my career resume,” she said
A lot of what she does with the food tent, she had to learn herself; alongside her husband, or from other volunteers. Not only is she intensely focused on doing everything properly and in an organized manner, she also adds her own personal touch. She recalls once making several gallon sized zip-lock bags of homemade dry rub to flavor the steak and chicken for the chipotle style protein bowls, now know as “SRA Bowls” they had at the food tent for junior regionals last year. She focuses on staying away from pre-made food, and invests time in researching healthy, nutritious meals and snacks for the rowers and coaches.
Harder works in tandem with Pam Halverson, another junior parent, who is in charge of looking at food alternatives for athletes with allergies to ensure that every rower has plenty to eat regardless of the limits of their diets. Harder said, “We want volunteers to be happy. Getting parents engaged in the food tent and close to the racecourse makes them love it.” Harder and her husband contributed a gift to the food tent supplies- bright red Williams Sonoma aprons with the SRA logo on front. Donning these aprons, and red SRA hats, volunteers feel like they are truly part of the team as well- and they are.
Harder has taught her children to “leave everything better than you found it,” and she is applying the same principles to her volunteer work at SRA. She finds under buying food for regattas “unacceptable” and make sure every rower can have as many servings as they like to properly fuel for races, while also making sure she is fiscally responsible to stay within SRA’s budget. Her personal touch is seen everywhere from her hand crafted menus to the oatmeal bar wagon she plans to have at Regionals this year. Her desire to make volunteering at the food tent a pleasant experience has dramatically risen the number of parents who sign up to volunteer and wear the now famous red aprons.
Kennedy is finishing up her sophomore year so the Harder’s plan to be around a little while longer. However, Vanessa is already preparing to pass on the food tent baton. “When the time comes, I want to hand it off better than I found it”. For now, she is savoring every experience as her daughter continues participating in the sport she loves.
SRA has amazing athletes, no question about it, but we also have an incredible support system. People generously give their time, attention, and effort to make this organization, “better than they found it,” as Harder would say. Without our volunteers, much of what we do wouldn’t be possible. It truly takes a team- one made up of more than just athletes- to accomplish our mission. Thank you to Vanessa Harder, SRA’s 2018 Volunteer of the Year, and all of our volunteers for the outstanding work you do for our team.
Previously an avid soccer player, Smith took what he thought would be a quick break after he broke his foot during a match. Rowing would soon capture his heart. Smith said, “Rowing has been a special part of my father’s side of the family and my father found SRA online and suggested that I have a go at it. Initially I only treated rowing as a stand-in until my foot healed and then I thought I’d go back to soccer. But it was after I completed fall season of my novice year that I decided trying something new could be good for me, and it was the best decision I have ever made to this day.”
Smith embraced the rowing culture and became captain for the Experienced Men’s Team for the 2017/2018 season. The sport instilled confidence and discipline in Smith, but also had plenty of other benefits. He added, “I have nothing but amazing things to say about SRA and the community it has created for me. The friends and connections I have made during my time there cannot be matched by anything else. My experience as a rower for SRA couldn’t have been as great as it was without the coaches and teammates I worked with.” Even though he had nothing but amazing things to say about his team, that didn’t mean he always had perfect days.
One of the races he took part in turned out to be one of his favorite memories. In 2017 his teammates had their hearts set on winning regionals. They put up a good fight but didn’t quite have enough to win. The following year things had changed. Smith described being a part of a truly special boat. He said, “The trust that ran through that boat was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. To know that my teammates trusted my performance as much as I trusted theirs made our chemistry that much stronger. Sure enough, as race day came, we obliterated the grand final and became 2018 Northwest Regional Champions in the Varsity 8+. That memory is truly something special for me.”
Rowing benefitted Smith in many ways. He commented on how his fitness and overall well being improved from his involvement in the sport. Additionally, he feels special from his part in crew (rowing) culture that not many people are familiar with. Rowing tends to be a niche sport so being a part of a rowing team often makes an athlete feel unique. Although he also juggled band involvement starting in sixth grade, he quit to focus his time more on rowing since it became so important in his life.
As a dedicated student and athlete, it is clear Smith puts one hundred percent effort into his passions. Rowing gave him strong friendships and a fiery passion for athletics. He also loves returning to the boathouse to catch up with new and old rowers as well as offer his advice to younger rowers. Around Christmas break he rode in a launch with Coach Dennis Ferrer for an entire practice just to watch and support his old team. He made sure to add a message for SRA rowers, “reach out to me if you have any questions at all or if you simply want to catch up and talk. I’ll always look for an excuse to come down to SRA and see how the teams are doing. If those of you reading this have an interest in rowing or know someone who has an interest in rowing, I highly encourage you to start rowing and learn at SRA. There’s no better team for it.”
There were too many positives during her time at SRA for McKown to count, but she said one of the initial things she loved about rowing was the newness and unique aspect of the sport. As a novice she learned that the rest of the athletes came from different schools and lived in different towns. As novices none of them had ever rowed before so the excitement of a new experience in a new place with new people was invigorating. McKown commented that rowing, “was a complete separation from everything that I was used to and in many ways, tired of.”
Additionally, the sport helped her navigate and cope with tragedy. After her novice season, McKown’s dad was diagnosed with lung cancer and passed away shortly before her senior year of high school. “Rowing was critical to how I moved through those two years to graduation. It was a complete reversal where the mental was in control of the physical- much the opposite of my Dad's situation. It was something in which I had complete control, and was something where I was learning something new every day- all while being surrounded by good things,” she said.
Following high school, McKown went on to attend Boston University from 2000-2004 while majoring in Anthropology. Even though she enjoyed rowing, she did not let it become a factor in where she attended college. However, once at Boston University, the allure of the Charles River running through campus made rowing hard to resist. She said, “I walked-on, and ended up rowing all four years in the 1st Novice 8+/Varsity 8+. I got to compete at NCAAs both freshman and junior year when we qualified, rowed at Women's Henley and Royal Henley in England my senior year, and was Team Captain my junior and senior years as well as MVP my senior year.” Evidently rowing worked out quite well for McKown in her collegiate experience.
Once she graduated, McKown biked home from Boston. She says that somewhere around Montana she received a call from the then executive director at SRA, Gretchen Frederick, asking if she was interested in a coaching job. With no other post-graduate plans McKown happily accepted and began her first job with SRA as a coach. She joked, “My first day coaching was as an assistant to Marcy Chartier with the 5am Masters. It was a blast. Anything with Marcy Chartier is a blast. And Patrick and Marc, of course.” (Patrick and Marc are well known rowers with the 5am group.)
With experience on both sides of the oar, McKown couldn’t name one favorite memory. Instead she reflected on the power of community and the extraordinary people she met and interacted with at the boathouse on a daily basis. For her- favorite memories centered around people. A killer sunrise with Mount Rainier in the backdrop tended to be at the top of the list as well.
McKown worked other jobs and volunteer positions after her coaching stint and is now a full time mom of two children, Sanna who is four, and Toren who is two. She and her husband, Tom, married in 2011. She jokes that her current job responsibilities include picking up strewn Legos and making mac and cheese. However, she has and still is enjoying an active life of travel, mountaineering, bicycle tours, backpacking, skiing, trail running, and hiking.
Thank you Kara for your lasting impact and legacy at Sammamish Rowing! We look forward to watching you crush your goals like you always have.
Novice year is a rite of passage at Sammamish Rowing Association (SRA). Every rower goes through it, but everyone has a different experience. Trish Miller describes her novice year as one that changed her life.
Miller currently serves as Activities Coordinator and teaches Leadership classes at Evergreen Middle School, where she previously taught Science and Fitness. In 2000, a fellow Fitness teacher and previous SRA rower asked Trish if she had ever tried rowing. It took Miller some time to work up the courage to try it, but after years of her colleague’s pestering, in July of 2008, Miller decided to give rowing a shot. Miller was hesitant to join because she knew nothing about rowing and had never been good at sports. She remembered, “I tried every sport known to man growing up and I was terrible at all of them,” but she knew she needed something. “At that point I just needed something for myself. I had a two-year old son, and I needed something for fun and fitness—something on my own where I wasn’t anyone’s mom, wife, or teacher. I needed something for me. That’s initially why I started.” Trish completed Learn to Row (LTR) I and LTR II before she found out she was pregnant and had to stop rowing. After her daughter was born, it took her two years to come back to rowing, but she just couldn’t get it out of her head.
In the spring, Tom Woodman asked Trish to seat race for Opening Day. At that point she had not even been rowing for a full year. “We had one mixed eight going. When he asked me to seat race, I didn’t realize I was actually competing to go. I thought I was just helping the experienced team seat race.” She laughs, thinking about it. “I really knew nothing about this sport. I had never seat raced before. But somehow, I won my seat race and that May I was able to race Opening Day. It was incredible to be given the chance to experience that level of competition so early on.”
One of her favorite rowing memories happened later that year at another prestigious race: The Head of the Charles Regatta. Miller opened up about everything that went wrong that day in October 2012. “There were major equipment issues. We rented a boat from CRI. Their boathouse was beyond the finish line, so had we to row about 6,000 meters through boat traffic to get to the start line. We were not even passing the finish line area when we realized we had lost our skeg.” She talked about how she wondered if they would even make it to the starting line. They saw another CRI crew who had finished rowing and asked to borrow their boat thinking what could be the harm in asking? The CRI crew agreed, and both crews swapped places on the water!
Miller admitted she lacked confidence and was afraid to try new things before rowing. She said she did not put faith in herself to rise to a challenge. “Now I welcome the challenge. In the last two years especially, I’ve been better about trying new things, testing my limits, and seeing what I am capable of. It all started here (SRA),” Miller said.
Miller, like many other rowers in our SRA stories, had some advice to give. She encourages new or inexperienced rowers to trust others. To her, trusting teammates is more important than technique. “Trust in a boat is the one factor that will make or break a race and will make or break a team. Always assume the best intent of your teammates. If you look at our 5AM women at a start line, we are not the biggest women or strongest women, but we absolutely trust and support one another, and I think that’s the magic. That is what makes us a winning team—that we will support each other to the end.”
Miller went on to say, “I was extremely lucky to have such an incredible novice experience, but even without all the excitement, I would’ve kept coming back. I was hooked from that first month. This is a lifetime sport for me. I think it’s because the sport itself, and the people who do it, won’t ever allow me to get complacent. You can never be perfect at it. The sport is always changing, depending on the race, the crew, the conditions. The challenges are endless. You have to keep pushing and learning, stretching yourself and growing. My closest friends are rowers, people I met at SRA. And I love them for the same reasons that I love the sport. They push me to continually strive for more than I ever imagined I was capable of. I’m not afraid to try new things anymore. I have SRA and my teammates to thank for that. Any boat, any seat, anytime, anywhere. I’m in. Bring it on.”
That year he joined Sammamish Rowing Association (SRA) and instantly understood why his friends had kept pestering him about the sport. “My experience at SRA was awesome. From the very beginning I fell in love with the sport and started making new friends, many of them I still keep in touch with,” Maesner added. Rowing is uniquely both individual and team oriented. Sitting in your seat in the boat you are in your own bubble, but you work together with your team for a common purpose. That teamwork led to one of Eli’s most memorable moments rowing for SRA.
During his senior year in high school, Eli’s boat won at Brentwood Regatta followed by a win at Regionals a few weeks later. “It was super awesome because we had only one or two practices in that lineup before we raced at Brentwood and we still ended up pulling out the win. Then a few weeks later going and winning regionals for the second time ever was incredible.” The thrill of a first place finish is addicting, and the satisfaction from executing a solid race with some of your best friends and teammates is an incredible experience. Eli’s rowing career would not end his senior year of high school. Through his hard work and dedication to the sport he loved, he was recruited to the University of Washington’s Rowing Program coached by Michael Callahan.
Rowing is a huge part of Maenser’s life, but he has made sure to find balance outside of the boathouse. As an Environmental Studies Major, Maesner is currently doing an internship with UW Athletics focusing on sustainability in college athletics. It is also part of his senior capstone research project required by his major. Rowing, Maesner said, has helped him balance other areas of his life. He commented, “Rowing has taught me how to prioritize and move on once something is done. This has been very beneficial in that while at practice- that’s your only focus and priority, but then once you leave you should completely forget about the practice or the erg piece and go and do something else. Whether it’s school work, hanging out with friends, video games, or just watching TV all of these help me move on from practice whether it was good or bad.”
Even though rowing can be incredibly demanding, many athletes, like Maesner, find that the discipline and rigor of crew make them better time managers. It also makes athletes strong goal setters. Maesner’s next goal? “Winning the varsity eight event at the IRA national championships,” he said.
Neider has stuck with rowing for several reasons, but one was particularly important. She said, “ I am a female engineer and until I started rowing again in 2001 I didn't have many female friends. I mostly work with men. I found that rowers are driven individuals that give their best no matter what they do. I feel a very strong bond with other rowers and have found lifelong friends. When I joined the 5am program at SRA, the other women really made me feel at home. They erged with me, invited me to coffee (I row for coffee), and let me know what they were doing on their off days. I come back for the friendship and camaraderie.”
Not only did her rowing friends support her, but she found support through her family as well. When thinking back to one of her favorite rowing memories she thought of one that involved her kids, Mark and Kate. “The first year I joined the Annapolis Rowing Club, four of us formed a 4+ over the winter. My friend Lisa told me that we had to form our own boat to be successful. Our first race was the Stonewall Regatta in Washington DC. My husband and my two children came to watch and we blew the other boats away. Afterwards my son said to me ‘I knew you rowed but I had no idea you were any good!’. It made me happy to be respected by my kids.”
However, just a year after she joined SRA, Neider received some terrible news about her health. She was diagnosed with cancer and underwent surgery, radiation treatments, chemotherapy treatments, and now is on an Estrogen blocker. She was diagnosed in the early stages of her cancer, and she looked for several opinions on treatment plans- including asking fellow rower Tanya Wahl who is an Oncologist.
Neider didn’t want cancer to impact her rowing, but inevitably it often did. She explained, “During chemotherapy I found out that there was a very clear cycle to my well being. I felt good the day of treatment and the day after, then got worse over the rest of the week and then felt a bit better for the next two weeks until the cycle started again. So I took off on the really bad days, coxed on the not so great days and rowed on the better days. I really think that continuing practice helped me get through the treatments and also made it a lot easier to get back into shape.”
Rowing was a form of recovery for Neider, who found more than physical health benefits from it. She talked positively about the support she received from the team. “I got to row at the Row for the Cure Regatta before I started my treatments. The whole morning team had tattoos with my name and a badger (my spirit animal) on them. I really knew I was not in this alone. It was so wonderful. The team was really amazing, and I feel a little guilty because they helped so much.”
Before going through her cancer diagnosis, Neider believed rowing to be a powerful tool. It taught her positivity, teamwork, determination, hard work, and the ability to push yourself through any situation. Now continuing the sport through her cancer- she feels those lessons have been amplified. Neider has advice for those struggling with their health and says, “Stay positive and don't feel sorry for yourself. Everyone has challenges. It is how you deal with them that makes you different. Plus exercise everyday if you can- maybe not what you could do before but something every day.”
The SRA community is grateful for rowers like Tara Neider. We are a community of strong, supportive people who put people first. Our strength is not only demonstrated in our erg scores or pieces on the water, but also in the kindness and acceptance in our hearts. As we often say in rowing, “Eight hearts must beat as one or you don't have a crew. There are no fast boats, only fast crews."
Dee Walker is retired now. Before retirement, he worked mainly in manufacturing for 50 years including time at Olympic Stain and Kenworth Trucks . He is also approaching the 50 year mark in his marriage with his wife Sally- a marriage which has given him a wonderful family of 2 children and 2 grandchildren. One of his grandsons attends Montana State while the other is a junior in high school looking to play collegiate baseball. Even though the parents of his Montana State grandson also went to college there- Walker was born and raised in Seattle. His grandfather was also born in Seattle (in 1890) so Dee’s Seattle roots go far back.
Growing up in Seattle, Walker was first introduced to rowing when he joined Green Lake Crew in high school in 1965. He rowed two years in high school and eventually went down the road to the University of Washington to join their rowing program for four years. His coach at Washington was the legendary Dick Erickson. Erickson coached from 1968 to 1987 and added achievements such as a national collegiate championship and a Henley Royal Regatta victory to his coaching resume.
When asked about his favorite rowing memories, Walker had many, but reflected on two during his time as a Husky Oarsman. In 1970 the first Opening Day Regatta (now known as Windermere Cup) was held on the Montlake Cut course. “UCLA at the time had a really good men’s program, and UCLA came up for a dual with Washington. The Junior Varsity race was first. I rowed bow in the boat and we won. So I was the first person to cross the finish line in the first Opening Day Regatta!” Walker said with a grin, reflecting on how cool the experience was.
It turns out Walker wasn’t the only one in his family to have rowed for the Huskies. In 1918 and 1919 his grandmother rowed on the women’s team at Washington. Women were judged on style and form rather than race results. Eventually the women’s team at the time fizzled out and the modern team we know today started up in 1969. Dee’s younger brother also rowed for the Huskies, graduating in 1979.
After his collegiate rowing days were over, Walker took a bit of a break from the sport. Make that a 45 year break. Walker recalled that there was a point once he retired that his wife said, “I’m tired of the same old stories. I want some new rowing stories. Find some new friends and start rowing again.” With that encouragement, as well as the growing reputation of SRA, Walker decided to row again. So in 2015 Dee joined the 5am team at Sammamish Rowing Association.
During his 45 years away from rowing, Dee remained active in water sports including canoeing expeditions in Canada, Montana, and on the Columbia River. In addition he raced marathon canoes (2 to 3 hour races at 60 strokes per minute) for over 30 years. This included a 3rd place finish in the 1998 World Masters Games.
Walker talked about another favorite memory that began shortly after joining SRA. “Dave Worthington, Scott Merritt, Steve Waltar, and I were talking and we were like, ‘you know- we ought to talk with Tom and see if we can get him to enter a 60 year old 4+ at the Head of the Charles.’ Tom didn’t want to do it, but we finally convinced him to. We got into the race and finished 3rd which earned us a place the next year. We were 3rd again the following year. In 2017 I wasn’t in the boat, but they won and set a course record. It was the first SRA boat to ever win a Head of the Charles event.” Walker is still ecstatic for his teammates’ win just like he was for his 1970 Husky Crew when they won the IRA National Championship. He is proud of SRA and his teammates and it was a moment he will never forget.
Dee is also proud of the SRA team accomplishments at the 2018 Masters Nationals. We combined teammates from across SRA plus junior coxswains. “We practiced together, we raced together, and we won together. Over 40 SRA athletes and coaches participated in Oakland. We won the team points championship.” Dee is a “visual” person and the best indicator of the team’s success was seeing the entire back of the team truck filled with “hardware”.
Walker has had so many valuable and fun experiences in his life and as a rower. He credits the sport with teaching him the importance of teamwork. “My best friends to this day are the people I rowed with in college and now my SRA teammates. Because I know other people are counting on me and I am counting on them - it’s one of the most important life lessons- knowing with certainty you can count on your teammates,” he added.
Dee knows rowing is a wonderful sport and is thrilled so many people love the sport as much as he does. He believes it keeps a person young. It is fun for him to know that his grandsons are older than most of the junior rowers yet Dee still has the opportunity to row and race with his teammates.
His advice? “If you’re a student- stick to your studies.” For less experienced rowers, he encourages them to appreciate older, more experienced rowers for their accomplishments and to ask about their stories. Walker regrets not talking to experienced rowers he had multiple opportunities to talk to. Some of those rowers ended up becoming renowned in the book The Boys in the Boat. His last bit of advice is to be passionate about rowing, have enthusiasm in your life, and take advantage of opportunities you have.
“If you can’t be passionate about something or enthusiastic about something- find something that you can be. Enthusiasm is the foundation of everything. Ralph Waldo Emerson said ‘nothing great is ever accomplished without enthusiasm’, and that’s kind of my motto,” Walker ended with.
Dee now serves as the president of SRA's Board of Directors.
Sam, a junior at the University of Washington, began rowing in 6th grade. He said his mom saw that Sammamish Rowing Association (SRA) had middle school summer camps for rowing and he claims this was her way of getting him out of her hair. Despite fearing falling into the water, Halbert fell in love with the sport quickly and spent his middle and high school years rowing for SRA.
“Rowing,” Halbert says, “has helped me realize that one needs variety in life. Put everything you have into practice, but as soon as practice is over, don’t stress about rowing or ergs but instead play an instrument, video games, or hang out with friends. This has helped me when having to perform at a D1 and World rowing level.” With that focus on balance and hard work, Halbert has been able to perform very well at the D1 level. His favorite rowing memory was his first championship race in the Varsity at University of Washington that they ended up winning. He said, “It was the UW vs. CAL duel and we hadn’t won it in 3 years in the varsity, so it was a great win for the team and set a new tone for the season.”
One of his favorite SRA memories was winning regionals at Brentwood his junior year. “It was a new lineup that we had never tried out before, but we pulled off a win and went on to win regionals,” he said
Looking ahead, Halbert still has his junior and senior years to finish at Washington. He was excited for what he might be doing a few years down the road, but was still focused on his time with the Huskies. “In the future I may go for the Olympics or at least race in other world level events. In the meantime, the team is focused on the winning the IRA in the Varsity event.”
Sam was and still is an incredible part of the Sammamish community. Watching him row himself into record books has been nothing but amazing for our organization and supporters to witness. While he may represent the Huskies in his purple and gold we are proud that he once wore the Sammamish red, navy, and white.
In 2001 Ben entered first grade and Floss thought, “My kids are now in school so I’m not quite as exhausted anymore. I can do this 5am Learn to Row before they are even awake, and when they get up I’ll be home, send them off to school, and it will be manageable!” She had seen flyers for Sammamish Rowing Association’s (SRA) program and had memories of seeing boats on a river near her college campus years ago.
“I thought- that looks really interesting, let’s just go for it. The timing was perfect. I was ready for something new in my life, because all I had going on was my kids. I was a stay at home mom at the time, I didn’t have a job anymore,” Floss added. She felt like her identity had been solely tied to her kids and she was looking for something new . Rowing ended up exceeding her expectations. “I think I found myself as a person again through that. It was super empowering and such a positive boost to my self esteem. It completely changed my life. It was amazing.”
At the time the number of rowers at SRA was much fewer than it is today. New rowers were labeled as a novice, but were thrown in the boats with more experienced rowers, because there weren’t enough people to justify additional coaches. “I was terrified. Everyone was so sweet, but I felt like they just hated having me in the boat,” she said.
In the summer, SRA hired a new coach to manage the novices. Floss was put into his group and immediately felt more empowered. After a full summer of rowing with this new coach, “I remember he took me one day and handed me over to the experienced head coach and said ‘I can’t do anymore with her- here.’ That made me feel like I had graduated and I was qualified to be in this group. It made me feel like I belonged there , and even though I had a lot of work to do, I had the inspiration to keep trying,” Floss explained.
Floss noted that before coaches like Tom Woodman and Lee Henderson came around, SRA’s coaches were constantly changing, particularly in the 5am time slot, and some weren’t always the best fit for the program. Floss says the more consistent coaches like Tom and Lee have been lifesavers by providing stability for their groups. She moved from 5am to the mid-morning team, and now rows independently as she tries to keep a shoulder injury at bay. Her physical therapist says she can still row, but movements like carrying a single, rolling a shell into slings, and other similar tasks can cause pain.
Rowing instilled so much confidence in Floss, but she continued the sport because of the people she met along the way. “The friends I have made are great. It is so nice to go out on the water with somebody,” she said. Not only did Floss continue rowing, but her children, Ben and Maggie, did as well. They had grown up seeing her rowing. Floss often “dragged” her kids to Masters Regionals where they would help out by carrying oars or just play on the beach.
Floss didn’t push them into the sport, but encouraged them to try it out. Maggie started in 8th grade and instantly loved it whereas Ben took a little bit more time to be fully convinced that this was the sport for him. Once he got into shape, it clicked. “It gave them self confidence and another set of friends. They weren’t into the whole social scene of high school, so it was neat that SRA had kids from many different schools. No one came in with a certain image,” Floss reflected. Junior rowers form incredible bonds because they go through incredible moments together whether it’s suffering through a workout or winning a race.
Ben and Maggie thrived on the team, and even though their mother described them as quiet kids, they both ended up being team captains. This sport is ideal for forming the best of relationships, because teammates see each other at their best and worst moments. Floss was pleasantly surprised to see their leadership skills develop as well as their physical selves as they gained muscle and learned to live active, healthy lives through rowing.
Aside from being a rower and junior rower parent, Floss served on the Board of Directors and found that her role helped keep her informed about everything that was going on at SRA . In 2006 the capital campaign for the new boathouse launched. For years progress was off and on. Pivotal people came and went. Floss and her husband Tony Andrews, didn’t want all this work to slow down . The two were pivotal in keeping the new boathouse project on track. “I was worried the project would stall. The motivating factor for Tony and I was to not let the work of historical people in this club go to waste,” Floss explained when asked what motivated her to be so involved.
Walking into our current facility is still exciting for Floss. She feels a sense of awe when she walks down the path and sees the Hod Fowler Boathouse appear around the corner. She has had such wonderful memories created during her time at SRA. Winning a pair race at Masters Nationals by 11 seconds in 2006, attending SRA Galas with friends, coming to boathouse cleanups, and watching her children race were just some of her best memories here.
When she started, Hanna was looking for an identity of her own. Almost 20 years later and she has become a special part of our community and devoted member to our mission. Floss, like many others, has spent so much time making this organization better because she believes in the values and impact of SRA. People like Hanna make impacts that last and are remembered forever- hers certainly will be.