Steamboat Springs High School graduate trades in poles for paddles as she heads off to college
October 17, 2016
Steamboat Springs — Experience is something Steamboat Springs graduate Lark Skov is looking to gain in the next few years.
But as one of the newest members of the University of Washington's women's rowing team, Skov has already proven she has the determination to succeed, the athletic talent to excel and a competitive spirit that can carry her from the snow-covered trails of Steamboat to the smooth waters of collegiate rowing.
The fact that she had never been in a competitive boat before arriving at college a few weeks ago was no deterrent.
"I spent all summer training for a chance to make this team," said Skov, who began her freshman year at the University of Washington in September. "It feels good that all that work paid off."
Skov got her first taste of rowing in an actual boat last week, after a friend texted to tell her the coaching staff had named her to the freshman boat.
“I was super excited," Skov said. "One of the first things I did was call my parents."
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Rowing at the University of Washington is a big deal, and the school's programs include a number of boats that compete at different levels in major collegiate events. The varsity boat is made up of veterans looking to land titles, and the athletes on the other boats are working to earn a seat on the top boat. This year, the team added about 35 freshmen rowers; of that number, Skov said there were 10 to 15 walk ons.
Skov said some of the athletes on the freshman boat come from a rowing background, but many others are pulled from other sports, then given the opportunity to try out for the team.
That process — which includes fitness, endurance and other physical tests designed to test an athlete’s ability — has consumed the first few weeks of classes.
Skov, a former cross-country skier with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, is the type of athlete rowing coaches are hoping to find in the process.
Skov was a top skier until her junior year at Steamboat Springs High School, when she decided to focus on music, instead. She returned to skiing her senior year, but at that point, it would have been difficult for her to catch the eye of a college program. Her coach knew Skov wanted to continue competing, so he offered her an alternative.
"Josh (Smullin) knew that I had missed skiing, and he knew that I missed the competitive lifestyle," Skov said. "So he asked me if I had ever thought about rowing and if any of the schools I was interested in offered rowing."
The idea stuck with Skov, and during the spring, she connected with former national Olympic team rower Angie Herron. Herron was a family friend and was humbled by the chance to help a young athlete excel in the sport she loved.
"I was actually really excited to have the chance to work with Lark," Herron said. "It was a great opportunity to share the sport I'm passionate about with a young person … I've been on the national team, and I've coached at the college level. I know that these programs rely on finding good athletes who may not have a lot of experience rowing the boat. Coaches know that if an athlete has a lot of physical ability … with help and with some coaching, these athletes can grow into exactly what that coach is looking for."
Herron said collegiate and international rowers are an interesting combination of personality and physical attributes. Coaches normally seek strong, tall athletic women, and the good news is that Skov has plenty to offer.
"Lark fits the bill," Herron said. "She is naturally athletic, and she has the discipline, dedication and natural ability to be a great rower. I had the confidence that she could make this team, and I'm absolutely thrilled for her."
Last summer, the two women trained together three times per week, and Herron said she got a good feel for what Skov was made of and discovered many other traits that would make her a great choice for college coaches.
Herron said being named to the rowing team is a huge opportunity, and she believes being a part of the team will make Skov's freshman year more rewarding and the transition of moving away from family and friends a little easier. She added it has also been rewarding for her, and if another Steamboat athlete came to her with the goal of making a collegiate rowing team, she would welcome the opportunity.
The year has been full of big changes, but they have been welcomed by Skov, who was already looking for something different as she heads into the next chapter of her life.
"Growing up in Steamboat, I was looking for something different," Skov said. "I wanted to go to a big city, to a big school, and I loved Seattle."
Now, Skov will have to adjust to another big change which involves trading in ski poles boat paddles.