Cougar of the Week: 04/02

Katie Baldyga (‘15), of Farmington, Conn., has been rowing ever since high school and is enjoying her last semester being part of a rowing team. She is an active member in Worcester’s Big Brother Big Sister program. She spent some time with THE SCARLET to talk about her involvement in Big Brother Big Sister, the chemistry of the team, and the current state of the Lake Quinsigamond (hint: it’s frozen). 

Photo provided by Celine Manneville
Photo provided by Celine Manneville

Scarlet: I understand the season hasn’t been as busy right now because the lake is frozen.

Baldyga: Yeah, a lot of teams are having that problem right now, so everyone’s trying to find different places to row. It’s a struggle right now.

Scarlet: Have you found any places to row?

Baldyga: We haven’t, but we went down to Cocoa Beach in Florida during spring break, so we got to row there for a week. And then we’re hoping to either go to Boston or Rhode Island this weekend to get some practice in.

Scarlet: What have you guys been doing other than trying to find lakes that aren’t frozen?

Baldyga: We’ve been doing our usual in-house erging, we weight lift, we also go over to WPI because they have a rowing tank. I don’t know if you’ve seen The Social Network, they have a scene where the twins are in house and they’re rowing, so WPI has that, so that’s really nice. So we’ve been doing a little bit of everything.

Scarlet: Do you feel like Tyler and/or Cameron Winklevoss when you use the machine?

Baldyga: Not so much, but…

Scarlet: Okay [laughs], those are just the only two people I’ve seen use it, so I clearly have a limited perspective. When are you usually able to row in the water by?

Baldyga: Usually we’re on the water by now, so we’re hoping to get in rows in other places in New England to get some more water time. Because as beneficial as it is in-house, it’s still a completely different thing. Like, the erg isn’t gonna resemble actual rowing once we get out there. And crew in-house is more of an individual thing. You’re on the erg, everyone’s cheering for each other, but when you’re in the boat, you’re moving as one unit. If one person is even off by a second, the entire boat is off.

Scarlet: Do you think that team chemistry can only progress to a certain point before the team gets in the water together?

Baldyga: Yeah, because anyone can row. You have kids that are, like ten or twelve out rowing, and then you have people out there who are rowing into their nineties. So it’s not like there’s one type of person that can row. It’s about heart and having it, and liking the team aspect. That will make a successful crew.

Scarlet: Has that been frustrating as a captain not being able to see that level of team chemistry on display quite yet?

Baldyga: Even in-house, it is a lot of team chemistry. I mean, no one is going to enjoy going in and erging every single day. You have to like the people. And you’re looking over, and my co-captains Alex Niclou (’15), and Sarah Fisher (’16). If it wasn’t for them and my other teammates, you wouldn’t improve. Anyone can go to the gym and sit on an erg, but you’re not gonna get faster unless you have the confidence that you’re teammates are going to push you.

Scarlet: Does the team aspect inspire you to go workout in the first place? It seems like that’s a hard thing to always have individual motivation for.

Baldyga: Erging is like our main workout every single day. But, at some point it is an individual thing. You’re pushing every day even if you’re getting a tenth of a second faster. But then you’re also pushing for your teammates. You’re like, “Oh, she’s stepping up her game. I’m gonna step up mine.”

Scarlet: I heard that you’re also part of Big Brother Big Sister in Worcester.

Baldyga: Yep. So I’m a senior right now. I was matched with her September of freshman year, and I’ve been seeing her since. She moved schools this year, but I’m close with her mom, and I’ve been meeting with her once a week for like three and a half years now.

Scarlet: What’s her name?

Baldyga: Jesenia. She’s currently a sixth grader, so I met her when she was in third grade.

Scarlet: What motivated you to get involved in the program?

Baldyga: I did a mentoring, just mainly helping with homework in high school, and I was really interested in the cause, so I just took a stab at it, and it’s worked out.

Scarlet: What have been your favorite parts about that program?

Baldyga: I think it’s just building a friendship with her, and I don’t know. In college you kind of get caught up with all the seriousness and everything going on. It’s kind of nice to just hang out with a kid and be a kid again.

Scarlet: Has Jesenia seen you row at all?

Baldyga: Yeah. Last year she started coming. She came to three water practices, so when we were on the water, our coach enjoyed having her. And she came and sat in the launch, in his motor boat, while we were practicing. So it was nice.

Scarlet: What have been your favorite parts about Big Brother Big Sister?

Baldyga: I think it’s just building a friendship with her, and I don’t know. In college you kind of get caught up with all the seriousness and everything going on. It’s kind of nice to just hang out with a kid and be a kid again.

Scarlet: Has she been on the boat yet?

Baldyga: No, no [laughs].

Scarlet: Probably not that appealing.

Baldyga: No, she just likes going out and watching everyone else, and being on the water.

Scarlet: What got you into rowing?

Baldyga: I got into soccer through eighth grade, and my team decided we wanted to try something else going into high school. And we just tried taking up rowing. And it was really good going into high school, because [it was with] all my teammates. And rowing is such a team oriented thing. Like yeah, you can pull all the fastest times on the team, but unless you have that trust with your team, you’re not going to go well. So going into high school we have everyone knowing one another, and I like the team aspect so much. And if you talk to any of the rowers on the [Clark] team, they’ll all say the same thing. Rowing will carry you through everything else in life. You build the motivation and team bonding that is going help other aspects.

Scarlet: Have you noticed that in effect at all in your life? Any examples?

Baldyga: Well I think just looking at our team, we do well in the classroom because we’re motivated. Like, we get good time management skills. And people are involved in other things on campus.

Scarlet: Send some of those time management skills my way. It sounds like the team is anxious to get out, but that you’re still building the team chemistry regardless. How does this team chemistry compare to team chemistry in years past?

Baldyga: I think it’s gotten a lot better. Because we are a small team, a lot of the time freshmen may not be oriented with seniors, but this year everyone gets along. And I think that it’s really good that the freshmen and the seniors are getting along. So you have that three year age difference, but you don’t really notice it. It’s not like you’re like, “Oh, that’s a freshman,” on the team. Everyone is involved and everyone gets along.

Scarlet: So it was less like that last year?

Baldyga: It was less like that my freshman year coming onto the team. But it’s improved so much. And looking back, if I remember anything from Clark Rowing, it’s going to be the team.


Thanks for the interview, Katie!