An Interview With Callie Mejia
This past June, five high school seniors from Renton Rowing Center finished the “last 250m” of high school by walking across the stage to receive their diplomas - graduating from different schools and entering into a world of possibilities. Our biggest take away from RRC’s Class of 2018 is the power of positive team culture. These seniors define our RRC family. Whether they joined RRC as middle schoolers, or became part of our family just this year, these seniors showed us that RRC is a place to grow, learn, have fun, and row hard.
We caught up with Callie Mejia, graduating senior from Issaquah High School and rising freshman at Loyola Marymount University.
Describe the most memorable experience of your rowing career.
My most memorable experience was at the Vancouver Tri-Meet a couple weeks before regionals when I raced in a single for the first time. Singles had made me nervous all season because I wasn't confident in smaller boats. But with Kate's support and patience I became more comfortable in a racing shell and rather reluctantly agreed to race a single. At the race it was my first time rowing in the Rowshelle which freaked me out a bit but I took my time feeling out the boat on the way to the start and started to relax. It ended up being a lot more fun and gratifying than I expected. I started the race off nice and steady and then started to work my way up. I could feel every stroke pushing me forward and it was so satisfying to know that I was doing this all by myself. I had full control of the boat and it was all up to me. As I moved down the course my confidence in the boat grew and I started putting more and more pressure behind the blade and catching up to the girls ahead of me. I felt so accomplished after the race knowing that I had the power and strength and capability to succeed all on my own.
What is one piece of coaching that will stay with you forever?
One piece of coaching that will stay with me forever is to just trust myself. Whether it be trying a new skill at gymnastics, learning a new dive, or getting in a new boat at rowing, I always tend to psych myself out and hold myself back. Every good coach I have had has realized that I am a very technical athlete and can tend to get into my own head and they have all told me the same thing, that I have to trust myself and my training. I have to realize that I put all these hours into training and I am a very capable athlete and can handle these new situations. It's always the same for every sport, once I get past my mental block and learn to trust myself I start to relax and make improvements becoming more and more comfortable.
What is most meaningful to you about being an RRC rower?
The most meaningful thing to me about being an RRC rower is that we are proof that success doesn't come from money and influence. Having rowed at SRA in the fall, I have seen what it was like at a very expensive, well known club and have been able to compare it to my experience at RRC, a significantly newer and smaller club. The foundations of the two clubs are so different and it's obvious in the coaching and practice style. At RRC our boats are not brand new and we run into challenges with the equipment, but we learn to work through it and to keep pushing ourselves more. We don't let equipment be the excuse for us to not improve. The athletes themselves are significantly different at the two clubs. At RRC we don't expect to win, we realize that we need to work for it and that mindset makes the rowers at RRC have so much more heart and drive. Everyone at RRC wants to succeed and prove that we are a club to be reckoned with and I love that. I love that at RRC we realize that just because we don't have a gold medal around our neck doesn't mean we lost. Yes it is nice to win, but it's even better to see ourselves improve and thats what we all strive for, our personal and team successes, not just the glory of a trophy. The people that make up RRC and the standards we each hold ourselves to is what makes rowing at Renton meaningful to me.
What regatta advice do you have for new rowers?
Having only been to a few regattas myself I don't know if I have the experience to be giving advice, but for me when I went to regattas I liked to know exactly what was going on. I set a schedule for myself so I knew exactly when to start double checking my boat, when to start warming up, when to launch, what I was doing for warm up on the water, and made sure to give myself time to chill by the start line before my race. I knew that in order for me to manage my nerves I needed to set a routine and do my own thing to get ready. So I guess my advice is to figure out what type of athlete you are at races and do what you need to do so that you feel confident and relaxed going out on the water.
Any parting advice for younger rowers?
My parting advice would be do not lose sight of your goals. Find something you want and go for it. Don't let fear of loosing or fear of pain hold you back. Find someone you trust to hold you accountable and tell them your goals so that they can help you stay motivated and on track. The people surrounding you in the boathouse and in life will support you in every way they can so use that to your advantage.
What are your post-high school (and post-RRC) plans?
Next year I will be attending Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles California to pursue a major in film and television production. I will also be continuing my rowing adventures by competing on the LMU Crew team.
We are sad to see our very first graduating class leave us but could not be happier as they continue on their journey. RRC is and always will be where they took their first strokes.