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Kiersten Mort talks academics, training and rowing at the U of C

By David Song, April 5 2016 —

The University of Calgary’s rowing team recently challenged provincial rival University of Alberta to a boat race on the Glenmore Reservoir on May 21. As the team prepares for their big race, the Gauntlet spoke to rowing athlete Kiersten Mort on her experience at the U of C.

Gauntlet: What is it like being a student-athlete at the U of C? How do you balance academics and athletics?

Mort: I’ve been a student-athlete since my first year and I can’t really picture not being one. It’s really nice to have an outlet to go somewhere. If you feel doomed in any academic class, you can just pound out the practice and escape from that. It gives you another goal to look forward to. Sometimes it gets a bit tough, but you power through it.

G: How long have you been rowing?

Mort: I started rowing in grade 12. It’s a very technical yet physically demanding sport, with a lot of endurance and mental stamina required. I really like that kind of challenge. Then I came to university, joined the team and I’ve been rowing ever since.

G: How do you prepare for races? What is your approach to training?

Mort: I like to give it my all and really focus — but make sure at the same time I’m having a lot of fun. That’s why I do sports.

To prepare for races, I put on some music and mentally prepare myself. Practices are what prepare me for the race physically. When you’re actually there, it’s all about the mental game. 

G: Last year, the Dinos women’s team finished fifth at the Canadian University Rowing Championships, the best finish in program history. What was your experience at the event?

Mort: It was an incredible experience. Everyone was really focused and excited to be a part of the team and compete. The team really gained confidence in the time trials and came together for the finals.

G: You finished seventh overall in the B finals of the lightweight double and lightweight single. What was your personal experience in those races?

Mort: The time trial for the lightweight double the day before was very windy. The conditions for the final were a lot better. My partner and I really pushed the finish and just soared. It was probably one of my favourite races.

G: What are some personal goals you have going into next season?

Mort: I’m really hoping to improve my placing and improve myself. As long as I’m getting better, that’s all I can ask for.

G: Do you think this performance will help the team next year?

Mort: Everyone’s really excited for next season. Now we know we can compete with other schools that, in the past, have been highly competitive. We know that we can fit right in.

G: Rowing at the U of C is a club, not a varsity sport. Do you think anything would be different if rowing was on the varsity roster?

Mort: I think we would have a lot of benefits we don’t currently have. However, we’re able to function as a club quite well. It also maintains a very nice aspect to it. Because we’re a club, we have an executive. I’ve been on that for two years, and it’s interesting to run your own club while being a part of the team at the same time. I really enjoy that because you see a lot behind the scenes.

G: What is something that most students wouldn’t know about the rowing team?

Mort: We practice a lot. There’s a few people that go to the gym at 6:00 a.m., but the rowing team is basically there from Monday to Friday. We play music very loudly. And rowing is not an easy sport. I think a lot of people get on the rowing machines and think, ‘This is really simple,’ but it hurts. It hurts a lot, but it’s very rewarding.

G: You’re now a veteran of the team. What are some things you’ve experienced that you didn’t in first year?

Mort: The team has really grown as a unit in the past two years. It’s definitely been interesting, moving into a leadership role after growing accustomed to people watching over you when you’re more of a novice. It’s been a learning experience to become more of a leader. At the same time, I’m looking up to all of my teammates because they set such great examples of work ethic and enthusiasm.

G: Why is rowing special to you?

Mort: My favourite thing is that you can always become better. Every season, you reflect back on the previous year, thinking ‘My technique was great! I was so fast!’ And then at the beginning of next season, you think, ‘That’s my baseline now. I can get so much better.’ 

G: What are your academic goals? What’s your major, and have you thought about things you would like to pursue after graduation?

Mort: I probably should. I’m in fourth-year computer science, still trying to figure things out. But I’d love to do something with video games or game design because I’ve loved games ever since I was a child. I used to force my dad to get off the computer so I could play Little Big Adventure 2.

G: Would you give any advice to younger students aspiring to take up a varsity sport?

Mort: Go for it. Put all your effort into it and have a lot of fun. Keep doing a sport as long as it’s fun. When it starts to become a job, that’s when you don’t really enjoy it, and it doesn’t reflect well on the rest of life.

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