By Emily Winslow
KINGSTON, R.I. - "These are my people."
This was the thought going through Rhode Island sophomore Kat Gillies' mind when she first arrived at the 2019 USRowing Under 23 Women's Olympic Development Program Camp. Standing at six feet tall, Gillies, fit right in alongside 14 other women selected to train at the camp in Iowa City, Iowa.
After learning to row less than a year ago, Gillies was surprised and grateful to be invited to the highly selective development camp. Despite being a competitive member of the 2019 Rhody Rowing Atlantic 10 championship team and sitting in the third seat of the Second Varsity 8+ boat, Gillies couldn't help but wonder why the selection committee had picked someone so new to rowing.
"At first I was shocked," Gillies said. "Does USRowing really want someone so young and lacking experience? But once I got there, I realized that many of the women had also been walk-on rowers when they started college too, and they are all hoping for spots on the national team. It elevated my confidence to train with these women. We were all going through it together and challenging each other to be our best."
While at the camp Gillies participated in multiple on-water practices and several fitness and strength tests. The experience gave Gillies a new perspective on rowing, new hopes for the future, and numerous takeaways to bring back to Rhode Island.
"Don't be scared to push beyond what you think you can do," Gillies said. "It is possible to break your limits, even when you think it isn't, you can and it will make you better."
Gillies enrolled at Rhode Island with no rowing experience. She thought the school would be the right fit for her, as she liked its size, diverse major offerings and location. Then-Rhody rowing novice coach Alicia Kime reached out to Gillies after she expressed interest in fitness and competition. After an exciting first year of rowing, Gillies is interested in going to the USRowing Under 23 Worlds selection camp and would like to tryout for a senior national team after she graduates.
With a new confidence, Gillies is excited to help lead the Rams to more success in the coming season and a higher place finish at the NCAA Championship in 2020.