Sidelines: On a golden summer

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Editor’s note: Programming Coordinator Meghan O’Leary already has her hands full with her ESPNU duties. But the former University of Virginia two-sport star also is pursuing a chance to become an Olympic athlete. In May, she wrote an introductory blog post about her hopes to make the United States Women’s National Rowing Team. Here’s an update.

The sound of my breathing is the only thing that breaks the silence of the early morning on the Connecticut River.

It is another typical training day.

I am alone, except for the occasional powerboat speeding by, enduring the torture of my 8×500 meter morning workout.

Last month, I returned to Connecticut from the Pan American Games Trials held in Princeton, N.J.

The trials had been my final sprint competition of the summer, and I would now take some time to rest, recover, and recharge for the fall.

Eight 500-meter full out sprints wasn’t exactly rest, but there was much work to be done. I paddle down after finishing one of the grueling 500 meter pieces, and let my mind wander, reflecting on the past four months.

Just this April, I competed in my first US Rowing National Selection Regatta (NSR), finishing nearly last in the Time Trials — 31st out of 33 of the best scullers in the country.

It was my first 2,000 meter race, ever. I also hoped it would be my ugliest.

Things could only go up from there.

Team Sarasota (L-R) Carli Goldberg, Anna Kobayashi, Meghan O'Leary (head down), Cara Linnenkohl

The next several months were filled with countless hours on the water, in the weight room, and thousands of miles driving across the country with my boat strapped to the top of my Toyota 4Runner, traveling from regatta to regatta and staying in some questionable lodging accommodations.

Most importantly, I was gathering the coveted racing experience that I so badly needed, and eventually a few wins along the way.

From Princeton to Philadelphia, Indianapolis to Canada, and from 31st to Gold, it had been a busy summer.

The highlights had been winning Henley Gold in the Women’s Double Sculls and Quad Sculls at the 129th Royal Canadian Henley Regatta.

In August, I fought to the Finals of the Pan American Games Trials.

It blows me away to think that just a year ago, I picked up my first oar.

This has already been quite an adventure and truly, isn’t that what life is about?

I’ve met some amazing people, formed lifelong friendships and made unforgettable memories.

I have discovered more about myself in the past 12 months than I have in the past five years.

I can truly say to myself that I’m doing something that I’m passionate about and living each day to its fullest.

I’ll attend a National Team Evaluation Camp at the end of September that will help set the tone for my fall and winter training.

Undoubtedly, it will be a long road ahead to get to where I’m going, but I couldn’t be more excited about the trip thus far.

There are no easy days, only days that may not be as hard as others.

I carry with me something a friend said to me after my first NSR and it has stuck with me since: “Go longer than most people think is reasonable, and you’ll be the one standing at the end.”

Keep up with Meghan O’Leary’s training both here on Front Row and on her blog.

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