FEATURE: Rower Megan Donovan In Boston Herald
May 14, 2010
By John Connolly
As a three-time U.S. Olympian with 45 national titles to his credit, Jim Dietz, the only crew coach in UMass history, has seen or done it all.
Yet, even the veteran rower never ceases to be amazed when watching the inner drive of senior lightweight rower Megan Donovan.
"All good athletes are focused and I think the sport of rowing draws focused people into it because of the nature of the sport. Since she began rowing she's been driven. She wants to be successful and if you put in the time you're going to be successful," said Dietz, a former Northeastern rower. "She exemplifies what athletes need to be. You never hear her talk. She just does the job for you every day."
All the hard work, which sometimes features 6 a.m. workouts on Sundays, paid off this past weekend when the UMass lightweight eight crew, led by Donovan, rowed to victory in the prestigious Dad Vail Regatta in Philadelphia. The Minutewomen crossed the finish eight seconds ahead of Georgia Tech with a time of 7:22.50 to capture the Dennis Kamrad Trophy.
The UMass lineup consisted of Kim Patrick (bow), Groton's Liz Bempkins (filling in for Tory Gordan in seat 2), Newton's Amy Nash (seat 3), Donovan (seat 4), Melrose's Ana Tocco (seat 5), Emily Boucher (seat 6), Chelsea Wakeham (seat 7), Liz Euiler (stroke) and Longmeadow's Carly Payne (coxswain). The season ends on May 22-23 at the U.S. Rowing Championships in Mercer, N.J.
"I think the most exciting times come when we can get on the water and come out of a race and feel like we gave it our all," said Donovan. "If I had to choose one race, it was winning the Dad Vail because I think we really came together because it was in windy conditions. We stayed composed and pushed through that race. The windiest days are the days that build character."
Donovan, 21, grew up in Orange and went to Mahar Regional High where she played on the basketball and soccer teams.
"They don't have a rowing program and I didn't know what rowing was all about until I got to UMass. I learned everything here," Donovan said of her inauspicious start. "Each year, our team recruits new students because a lot of our athletes haven't rowed before and I saw a sign that mentioned they were looking for new rowers. I went to a meeting and it sounded like something I'd like to try. That's the really great thing about our sport, a lot of people don't even start until they get to college."
"I really didn't expect to love it so much, but it's so competitive and it's all driven by the amount of work you put in," Donovan said. "The amount of success you can achieve is only limited by the amount of work you put in. The competitiveness is something you love. I love the rowing because it's all about giving everything."
Donovan gives it all in the classroom, too. A kinesiology major, Donovan was Atlantic 10 Rowing Student-Athlete of the Year with a 3.96 GPA.
"I'll be in the ERG room early in the morning and she's the first one there," Dietz said. "I'll come back and she'll be asleep on the floor with a book in her hand."