Pelican Rapids graduate Anna Stephenson, pictured middle, above, training last fall as a freshman with the University of Minnesota rowing teams. Anna, a 2021 graduate and student-athlete, is attending the Carlson School of Management.
Fans cheer at a U of M Gophers event in the fall, which is a short training season for the rowing teams. Pelican’s Anna Stephenson qualified for the freshman (novice) rowing squad, and hopes to work up to varsity.
Pelican Rapids graduate Anna Stephenson, training last fall as a freshman with the Gopher rowing teams.

Pelican student athlete takes up the oars, to cruise not-so-gently down the stream for U of M Gophers

 From dribbling a basketball to gripping a boat oar, a Pelican Rapids graduate and multi-sport athlete has found a new game. Joining the rowing team at the University of Minnesota, Anna Stephenson has been part of a different crew this fall. 

The 2021 Pelican graduate is a student at the U of M’s Carlson School of Management. Looking for an extra-curricular activity, Stephenson cast her eyes on a rowboat. 

As her mother Dee Dee Stephenson noted, Anna “fits the mold” of a rower—with a tall, athletic, strong build. 

“She filled out the application for rowing, just for the heck of it,” said Dee Dee. She went though the process…and they picked about 40 to try out for 24 spots.” 

Rowing, or “crew” as it is known by insiders, is actually a spring sport. So, the autumn rowing is short, off-season training opportunity. 

Stephenson is rowing as a “novice” class athlete, with the prospect of excelling to varsity. 

Oddly enough, Pelican’s standout basketball player—on a team that won two consecutive trips to the Minnesota state high school tourney 2021-22 finds herself as among the very few Pelican graduates ever in a Division I college athletic program…in a sport she never before experienced.

When Pelican assistant basketball coach Amanda Belz learned Stephenson was bound for University of Minnesota, she recommended she try out for rowing team (coach Belz is an alumnus of U). 

“I wanted to continue competing as an athlete. Team sports have been a large part of my life, and I wanted to continue that part of my life in college,” said Anna. 

In the summer of 2021 she was contacted by the women’s rowing team for information about her athletic career. A phone interview went well, and she was invited to try-out. At the end the two-week try-out  Anna was selected to the freshman (novice) rowing team. 

“It has been such a fun journey since then. I have really enjoyed all my new teammates and enjoy the challenge of learning a new sport,” said Stephenson. 

An unexpected dividend in making the rowing teams: She travels to sunny San Diego for a week to train, in January. The first regatta also provides a convenient escape from late winter— to Dallas on March 23.

The team members train six days a week, usually 2.5 hours per day. When the Mississippi River is open, athletes do drills and workout on the water. When it is too cold to be outside, they usually do a rowing machine (also known as an erg) workout and do drills in the tank room. They also do body/leg/abs circuits depending on their training plan. For spring semester they will also start lifting weights two days a week in addition to regular practice. 

The main NCAA season is in the spring. In the short fall season they row 5 kilometer events and in the spring they row 2 kilometer events. 

Novices (freshman) only row in 8 person boats, but varsity has a mix of 8 person and 4 person boats. This fall they hosted a home meet on the Mississippi and a scrimmage against Wisconsin in Madison. The varsity squad also competed at the Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston. For the spring season, they travel to Iowa City (Iowa Regatta), Dallas (SMU), Sarasota (Big 10 Invitational), Indianapolis (Big 10 Championships). 

The NCAA championships will also take place in Sarasota.

Stephenson really enjoys being a student-athlete at the U. 

“It’s challenging to balance academics at the Carlson School of Management and rowing, but I am grateful for the opportunity,” she notes. “I would not be in the position that I am today without my past coaches and teammates in Pelican. They have always pushed me to my limit and supported me throughout my high school career and even today. I am thankful for each one of them. 

“I am excited to see what our squad will accomplish this spring season. Most girls are also brand new to the sport, but we have all come a long way from the first days of practice. It will be a fun and challenging experience. Row Gophs!”