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Jamrog Participates In Storied Rowing Competition Abroad

May 1, 2017

by Jaztan Teen, MSU Athletic Communications

Alarm clock buzzing.

There is no time to hit the snooze button when a train is to be caught at 5:55 sharp. After cycling to the station, the train will head toward Ely, where morning training will take place before the sun rises.

After the 16-18 kilometer workout on the water, it's time to go back to campus. By 9 a.m., lectures begin and will last until early afternoon. A few hours of small group study will take place before heading to the boat house for a second training session either on the ergs or lifting in the gym.

Now it is time to cook dinner, study, and head to bed by 10 p.m. before it all starts again.

Alarm clock buzzing.

This is the daily grind of a Lucy Cavendish College-University of Cambridge student. This is the dedication of a Cambridge University Women's Boat Club rower.

This is the life of Michigan State alumnae, Olivia Jamrog.

Originally from Edwardsburg, Mich. the Spartan-turned-Cambridge scholar first tried rowing the same time she was adjusting to life as a college student. Prior to arriving in East Lansing, Jamrog had played tennis at St. Joseph's High School in South Bend, Ind.

"When I went to Michigan State, I knew I wanted to stay active," explained Jamrog. "I found out about rowing and I thought it would be a good idea to not only stay active but meet a bunch of girls and have an instant network. The idea of a water sport and being outside was pretty appealing so I gave it a try and made the team. The rest if history."

Michigan State holds a similar structure in their rowing program as most other schools in the United States; a varsity team comprised of experienced rowers and also a novice team, largely comprised of athletes who were trying a new sport, like Jamrog. She walked on her freshman year and made the novice team.

"It was challenging but also very exciting, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into," said Jamrog. "I remember my first training trip in Florida where we were doing two-a-days everyday and I don't think I had ever done a two-a-day in my life. It was pretty shocking to the body and the mind."



Within the novice group, Jamrog competed in the top novice eight and took a sixth-place finish at the Big Ten Championships as a freshman.

"Being a new sport to me, there was a huge learning curve, especially with the required fitness of an endurance sport and getting used to being on the water," explained Jamrog. "It was a lot of learning, but we were learning as novices together."

After adjusting to her first year of college and rowing, Jamrog began to see her mind and body progress to that of a rower.

"You truly get what you put in this sport. The harder you work, the faster you'll be and the more success you'll see," said Jamrog.

The following year, Jamrog progressed from novice to the varsity four. By her junior year, Jamrog was competing in the first varsity eight, comprised of the fastest on the team.

"A lot of races were fun and memorable, but the overall experience I think is what really made it. The day in and day out training, and being with the other girls, especially from being a walk-on and totally brand new to the sport," explained Jamrog. "As I learned how to do this and progressed, it was really exciting to see how far I could get in the sport."

In her senior year, the 2015 Big Ten Distinguished Scholar and Academic All-Big Ten Honoree Spent all seven racing weekends in the varsity eight, and won the Petite Final at the Big Ten Championships, finishing with five lengths of open water ahead of Rutgers.

By summer 2015, a long-sought goal for a determined Jamrog was achieved.

"In 2013, I was invited to trial at a U-23 lightweight camp. I spent two summers at GMS Rowing in Connecticut, but didn't quality for World's. The third year I did, and I raced in the U-23 World Championship in Plovdiv, Bulgaria," said Jamrog.

In her international debut, Jamrog finished second in the lightweight quadruple sculls B-final at the World Rowing Under-23 Championships.

"I put a huge amount of emphasis on physical and mental prep and saw a huge payoff. It was an incredible racing experience where I gained a tremendous of confidence," explained Jamrog.

With a year left to finish her bachelor's in Philosophy and a second-major in Psychology, Jamrog's eligibility was exhausted. She spent her final year at Michigan State helping coach the novice team.

"My senior year, Matt [Coach Weise] approached me with a potential opportunity to row and study at Cambridge, which was something really unique, especially if I wanted to pursue a post-grad degree," explained Jamrog. "To continue studying and rowing is not something you can do in the U.S. after you have used up your eligibility."

Knowing she wanted to continue her education in law, Jamrog went through the selection process at the University of Cambridge. She arrived to London in September 2016, and has been training and competing with Cambridge University Women's Boat Club since.

"Overall, it's similar. You're still balancing the student-athlete lifestyle with lectures and class and homework. You still have a bunch of training sessions and are being out on the water, one the ergs, and in the gym," said Jamrog. "I think the difference is that both are a little more intense -- the academic commitment is greater, and the rowing is a bigger commitment."

Much of the club's intense workouts has been in preparation for the greatest event of the year, the historical Boat Race between Cambridge and Oxford.

"This is where it's a little different than back home. The sole existence of this club is to beat Oxford at the Boat Race. If you go to the website and click on `about,' it literally says this club `exists to compete and win against Oxford,' explained Jamrog. "I think that is special. We do have other races and have seen success this season, but ultimately all of it is for the Boat Race."

The race has upheld a long-time rivalry and competition for over a century, yet the excitement is at an all-time high for women in the sport, as 2015 marked the first time in the history of the event that the men's, women's and both reserves' races were all held on the Tideway, which is a stretch of the Thames River that is subject to tides and was previously held for only the men's races.

"Women's prominence in the sport is finally gaining an equal footing as the men so it is a really exciting time to come over here and jump into this," said Jamrog. "It's huge right now."

This year's Henley (lightweight) Boat Race between Cambridge and Oxford universities took place March 26, and the openweight Boat Race on April 2. CUWBC won the 2017 Women's Boat Race beating Oxford by 11 lengths. Cambridge to date, holds 42 wins over Oxford's 30.

"I am so proud of how we raced- we executed our plan right from the start, and with an early lead, the plan was simply to increase the margin by as much as possible," explained Jamrog. "There was a tremendous amount of trust within our crew, both in each other and in our race plan, and this allowed us to race exactly like we had trained."

Cambridge's victory was made sweeter by setting a strong new course record of 18:34, in front of a crowd of 250,000 spectators along the banks of the Thames.

"It was so rewarding to know that the tremendous amount of physical, mental, and technical preparation we put in for the sole purpose of beating Oxford was worth it," said Jamrog.

Jamrog had never anticipated where this sport would take her.

"When I first started rowing it was exciting, but I didn't really love the sport yet. I didn't know what it was about and I wasn't really sure why I was doing it, but I knew there was something that kept me coming back," explained Jamrog. "You have to give everything a fair chance."

With six years of rowing under her belt and a world of experiences, there's no telling what the future holds for Jamrog.

"It can be so incredibly difficult at the time, but you reap such a large reward at the end of it by pushing your body to the limit and feeling the satisfaction of what you've worked to achieve. I don't think you can feel that same way in all other sports," said Jamrog.

Olivia Jamrog (fourth from left) with her Cambridge eight.

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