Local athletes finding a groove on UT's rowing team

Meigs County's Alex Dawson puts in a strenuous practice for Tennessee's rowing team. When she arrived in Knoxville, she didn't know how to row. That has changed. PHOTO: WTVC SPORTS

Four athletes from the NewsChannel 9 viewing area are making their mark on the University of Tennessee's rowing team.

Two are freshmen and two are seniors.

The two seniors, Katie Lance of Cleveland and Alex Dawson of Decatur, have both excelled up to the varsity team.

Both arrived in Knoxville with no rowing experience, but were good student athletes.

They want to close out their careers at the front of the pack.

Dawson rows from the middle of the boat.

She's from Meigs County where she played softball, basketball and golf, but not rowing.

Head coach Lisa Glenn said Dawson and Lance have been big assets to the program, "They learned the sport in the first year and really fell in love with it," Glenn said.

Dawson said the sport has helped her grow as a person, "I definitely think rowing is definitely the most team oriented sport I've ever played."

Lance agrees.

She grew up in Johnson City, but her family now lives in Cleveland.

She was a runner and swimmer in high school, but not rowing.

Both were recruited on campus to row because of their athletic backgrounds. Coach Glenn counts them as a shining example for other walk-ons. "They are awesome. They came in and learned to row their first year and have been a big part of the program all four years."

Lance works from the bow seat on the third varsity boat.

She'll graduate in the fall with an engineering degree.

At first, she was shy but said rowing has taught her leadership and communication skills. Lance noted, "You have to work together to get something accomplished because rowing is the ultimate team sport almost because you have to be in sync with everyone."

Dawson works in what's known as the "engine room" of the second varsity boat.

She is a first generation college graduate. She will continue in Knoxville at grad school to pursue a clinical doctorate in audiology.

She met those goals while getting up at 4:30 in the morning for practice. "It turned out to be everything I wanted it to be. I get to advocate, I get to educate, I get to serve," Dawson said with a smile.

After their introduction to the sport, the rest flowed naturally. "We got them hooked on rowing and they brought a lot of personal strength into their role as rowers on the team. They've improved every year since their freshman year and they're going out at the top of their game," Coach Glenn said.

Freshmen Cora Hansen and Emma Johnson, both from Signal Mountain, are the next local athletes with a shot at doing the same.

Tennessee is hosting the Big 12 Conference Championship Sunday at Oak Ridge.

The Lady Vols, Alabama and five Big 12 schools will compete.

The winner earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Rowing Championship which takes place May 31- June 2 in Indianapolis, Ind.

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