Cougar of the Week: Niki Lew

Photo courtesy of Clark Athletics

Photo courtesy of Clark Athletics

Steven Castiglione, Scarlet Staff

Niki Lew of Auburndale, Mass. is a senior captain on the women’s swimming and diving team and a member of the women’s rowing team. Lew is also involved in Clark’s Student Athlete Advisory Committee, and is majoring in Mathematics with a minor in education.

Scarlet: Being a member of two teams, what are the hardest aspects of swimming and rowing?

Niki: The hardest part about being on these two teams is managing my academics while also making time for sports and having time for myself. Sports have always helped me stay on track academically because I know that in order to go to practice, I need to get my work done, but adding a second sport has also made me realize that sometimes you can’t do everything. Sometimes and you need to choose what is most important to you. Sports are important to me, and so are my teammates, so I am sticking by them.

Scarlet:  I understand Coach Paul E. Phillips has a unique coaching style, what exactly goes into that style?

Niki: Two things come to mind when I think of Coach: Positive Energy Prevails, coach’s initials, and Personal Responsibility. It may sound silly, but being positive is so important in a sport like swimming. Once you get to a higher level, there is little that separates everyone from a physical standpoint, but so much that can divide the good athletes from the best athletes on a mental level. As for personal responsibility, we are only a Division III school, so on our team we have a wide range of athletes with different abilities and goals, but it works as long as everyone fulfills their personal responsibility. Show up to practice ready to work hard and do your best. Be purposeful, and inspire others. If you aren’t happy with something, speak up. Coach is willing and wanting to help you if you are willing to ask for it.

Scarlet: Has there been anyone on the team who has been a role model for you?

Niki: There are too many people on the team for me to pick someone specific. Everyone has inspired me to be a better me, whether it be a better attitude, a stronger work ethic, more motivated in the pool, more focused academically, there have been different individuals along the way to remind me of all of these things, and for that I am so grateful to have all of my CUSDF, yes the “F” stands for family, throughout my four years here at Clark.

Scarlet: You have been swimming for most of your life, like most swimmers at the collegiate level. Why did you decide in your junior year to start rowing?

Niki: I needed something else in my life. When swim season ends in February the last thing anyone wants to do is swim. But I also know that just because swim season is over, doesn’t mean the training for the next year can stop. Rowing was my solution. It is a great way to cross train, as well as an opportunity to try something new. It was the first time in my life that I had made the conscious decision to do something because I really wanted to. The rowing team has given me a whole new group of friends, as well as a new way to push myself where I haven’t just fallen into a routine like swimming. It was something new and exciting which I now love so much.

Scarlet: What do you find the most rewarding about participating in two sports?

Niki: The people. Both teams have some of the most wonderful people I have met at Clark and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. They are there everyday to push me at practice and to help me through my academics.

Scarlet: If you could be a part of any TV show what would you be part of and why?

Niki: Although Grey’s Anatomy is my all time favorite show, I would want to be Jess from “New Girl.” I love her lot. She is a teacher just like I want to be. And she is just a funny, happy, loving individual.

Scarlet: Is there something you do before every meet for good luck?

Niki: I don’t really have any good luck rituals. The days I race my best are when I forget about the race and focus on my team and on having fun. It’s really easy to get caught up in trying to do well and that usually just ends up giving poor results. If I go in with a clear mind, the results usually just happen.

Scarlet: What has been your favorite Regatta so far and why?

Niki: Definitely our last spring race of 2016. Coach decided to put us in a coxed four, which is something he does not usually do with novice rowers. We practiced in that line-up for only a week and thought the race was going to be a mess. In the end, we beat a WPI boat, which was such an amazing thing for a Clark boat to do, and also it taught us that we should have believed in ourselves more.

Scarlet: If you had to be trapped on a desert island with two people from each team (rowing and swimming) who would you bring and why?

Niki: I would bring Karina Urquhart (‘17) and Mackenzie Satalino (‘18). No question. Karina is my best friend in and out of the pool. She puts up with me as a roommate and is always there for me when I need her. She also makes me laugh even on the bad days. As for Mack, she welcomed me with open arms since the day I stepped into the crew room. She answers all my questions about rowing since I came in knowing nothing and supports me in everything I do. These two girls are more than I could have ever asked for as teammates and as friends.

Thanks for the interview, Niki.