Fili Reflects on NCAA Championship Experience

Fili Reflects on NCAA Championship Experience

Two-time first-team All-American Mickey Fili, who will be a senior this fall, reflects on her and her team's time at the NCAA Division III Women's Rowing Championships in May.

The road to the NCAA Division III Women's Rowing Championships was nothing but fun and rewarding! Having started rowing the spring of my freshmen year at Washington College, I had no idea that the team would compete on the national level for two consecutive years.  It was an honor to represent WAC at a national competition and it was a thrill to compete in the grand finals both years! 

The women's rowing team at Washington College is unlike any other team experience. I have been on numerous athletic teams, but have never in the past experienced such congeniality and devotion. The coaching staff and team members are a supportive and inspiring group of people. Everyone takes pride in maintaining an unwavering determination to prosper and grow both as athletes in and out of the boat, as well as developing confident women who contribute to the community. Through hard work, sacrifice, and effective communication, we as a team have obtained great achievements and learned priceless life skills which we will carry with us forever. We have become successful problem solvers through developing the ability to overcome obstacles and conquering challenges with a smile on our face. All of these combined experiences aided us in our unforgettable 2014 NCAA journey. 

The three weeks leading up to the NCAA Championship in Indianapolis involved 24/7 commitment but was a wonderful experience. We trained like professional athletes without any interference such as school work.  It was by far the best experience a student-athlete could ask for! After our morning workouts, there was usually time for a good nap (about an hour and a half) before our afternoon workouts began. Practices were kept lively and we created theme days for the last week, such as Tropical Tuesday, Wacky Wednesday, Snapback & Tattoo Thursday, and Lax Bro Friday! Between practices, we also organized team scavenger hunts and relay games!

Our flight from BWI to Indianapolis was an adventure in itself as we clamored through the airport. With Coach Allison Murphy, Lauren McElhenny and Caren Saunders in charge, we were quite the troop of polo shirts and khakis. We took the stores, restaurants and public restrooms by storm. Without fail, I usually felt like we were the "best dressed" team in the area! As a group, we had to go through the car rental process (that resulted in an upgrade from 3 basic white vans to two SUVs and a minivan) and then went on to enjoy the wonderful hospitality at the Sheraton Hotel located in the heart of Indianapolis. We were assigned two people per room, one person per bed. The beds were heavenly. The NCAA hosted a wonderful banquet featuring a guest speaker for all participating athletes in Divisions I, II, and III. We slept and ate like queens that weekend!

Our experience in Indianapolis was glorious. Our first couple of days of practice was dedicated to learning the racecourse and visualizing our 2,000-meter race. There we worked on our starts and felt out the rhythm and swing of the new water and winds. The sunrise at Eagle Creek was beautiful. The park itself was peaceful even during the pressures of race day. The weather was warm and breezy. That being said, the NCAA experience is still difficult to explain. Imagine being on a new racecourse, continually surrounded by your competitors, with performance expectations radiating from coaches and parents, as well as of the spectators while announcers examine your every movement. You can almost slice the pressure with a knife.  At times, it was truly a blessing to focus on the scenery and wildlife of Eagle Creek. To take a deep breath and watch a nearby flock of ducklings and goslings reminded each of us that there is so much more to this venue then just hosting a NCAA Championship. The journey as a whole was exhilarating, character building and FUN! However, the opportunity to work with an irreplaceable group of hardworking, dedicated young women and coaches was the most aspect of the trip.