As high school athletes, Taylore Urban and Allison Elber were no strangers to a challenge.
However, neither could imagine the hard work and sacrifice they were going to put into Ohio State’s rowing program.
That effort paid off Sunday when the top-ranked Buckeyes claimed the NCAA Division I Championship at Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis.
“As our coach described, it’s like climbing Mount Everest,” Urban said. “It was a long season for us. Nine months, starting with two-a-days, and every day we continued to climb. The nationals were really like the summit for us.”
The long journey that started in August tested everything Urban and Elber had, whether it was the physical pain of rowing for hours to the mental hurdles of pushing through when they felt they couldn’t anymore.
For Elber, who started in OSU’s novice program four years ago after running cross country and track at Brunswick, the feelings of winning a national title were indescribable.
“It’s absolutely unreal,” the senior said. “I have to say that in rowing I’ve experienced more physical pain than I thought was possible. That’s the cool part, though. You think you’ve reached your limit, but you didn’t.
“We killed ourselves this year to achieve this goal, and I couldn’t have done this without the support of my teammates.”
Urban and Elber experienced the fruits of their labors Saturday. Ohio State became not only the first Big Ten program to win the national rowing crown, but the first female sport in Buckeyes history to win a title in any sport.
Urban, a former Medina gymnast and track standout, helped the first varsity four win its second straight NCAA crown to start the day. The junior and lone returning member joined Sara Handa, Chloe Meyer, Aina CidCentelles and coxswain Dara Schnoll to record a season-best 7:08.26 to beat USC (7:11.02) and Washington (7:12.02).
“When the flag dropped, we just had this feeling like there was no way we weren’t going to take what was ours,” Urban said. “I was the only one that has been to nationals before, so having that experience was helpful. I knew how to deal with the stress, but we pulled through and worked well together.”
After a win by the second varsity eight, Elber and first varsity eight closed the competition. The team, which also included Katie King, Cori Meinert, Eelkje Miedema, Ashley Bauer, Meghan Birkbeck, Holly Norton, Claire-Louise Bode and coxswain Victoria Lazur, took third in 6:23.19.
While the crew didn’t win its event, it was more about helping obtain the ultimate goal.
“At the beginning of the race, we knew we could be the fastest board,” Elber said. “The whole time our focus was on doing it for our team and not just our boat.”
While the two athletes had different journeys to get to the final destination, they shared similar feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction.
Elber worked her way up from the novice program to the first varsity eight and Urban won two titles with the first varsity four, but both were able to share in the jubilation of being called a national champion.
“If you would’ve told me four years ago I would do this, I wouldn’t have believed you,” Elber said. “It’s amazing that I’m here. We set this goal at the beginning of the season, and I’m so proud of my team and amount of work we put in.”
“It was different this year,” Urban added. “Last year, I didn’t know what to expect. It wasn’t until this that I understood how much a championship season meant to an upperclassman.
“This program has been phenomenal for me. I never could’ve imagined competing at the D-I level in any sport. I have one more year and it’s awesome. (Monday) was my first day off in months, but I’m ready to starting training again for next season.”
Contact Dan Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.