For rowers Jesselyn Voysey and Katherine Pearson, the sport that they love has become a way of life. Both knew when beginning the college process that they wanted to take their passion for the sport one step further and began the search for a school that would fit their academic and athletic needs.
Voysey, a senior majoring in journalism and electronic media, has not always rowed. This season is only her fourth year participating and the way Voysey got her start in rowing is quite unique in her eyes.
While attending Orange Coast community college in her home state of California, she was approached by a rowing team member and it went from there.
“I played soccer all the way up until college,” Voysey said. “My first week of school somebody on the rowing team was like ‘You should try rowing you’re really tall.’ I didn’t really know anything about it and so I joined, and here I am.”
She knew her next step after her two years going to school in her home state was going to involve rowing somewhere and she started to acknowledge her desire to compete at the Division I level.
Although Tennessee was quite far away, it ended up in the crosshairs of her sight and was a good fit.
“I was looking at different schools and I really didn’t know a lot about Tennessee to be honest.” Voysey said. “The coaches asked me to come on my official (visit), and when I came here it was so different.”
Moving from California to Tennessee was a big change, but it ended up being just what she was looking for.
“I thought Tennessee would probably be the biggest change I could possibly do,” Voysey said.
The comradery, a community feel and excitement built around sports mixed with a high level of school spirit were just a few things at the top of both Voysey and Pearson’s lists of favorite things when on their visit to Knoxville. It helped the pair make their decisions to attend and brought them to the level they are today.
“Coming here gave me the opportunity to get a good education and to row so I was really excited about that,” Pearson, a junior majoring in hotel and restaurant tourism, said. “When I first visited I also got the opportunity to go to a football game, and I was just amazed at all the school spirit around athletics ... so that got me really excited and gave me another reason to want to go here.”
A school with a great fan base and the well-known “sea of orange” did aid in both decisions, but looking deeper in that it was not all about the football Saturdays that are known and loved.
“I love our boathouse on campus,” Voysey said. “It’s super convenient and it’s actually really weird to have that. A lot of schools have to commute a pretty long drive to their boathouse so it makes it really convenient.”
With Pearson having been a rower since her sophomore year of high school, the sport to her is “beautiful.” Rowing has also aided in the development of her time management skills throughout her journey as a Vol and given her the opportunity to continue doing a sport that she loves.
As student-athletes, both know the high demands and at times, it can be difficult. But it is something that has helped them to develop into better students, athletes and people in general.
“Rowing in college has helped me with balancing my life because we practice 20 hours a week and have meetings and other requirements throughout the day and then class,” Pearson said. “So it’s really helped me learn about time management, balancing and organization.”
Both Voysey and Pearson have high hopes for the remainder of the fall season. Going into the spring season, where competitions will be more conference based and bring a bigger sense of rivalries, the pair also hopes for success.
Pearson sees the sport as unique and beautiful because although it is 100 percent a team effort, it also requires a strong individual dedication and commitment to always push yourself during competitions.
“Everyone has to be perfectly in sync and once you get that and all eight of us are rowing in sync, and you can just hear the ore locks going in together and the blades going in together – it’s just an amazing feeling,” Pearson said.
Along with being in sync, holding your team members accountable and pushing them harder in practices and out on the water is something that Pearson sees her team doing and knows that will pay off in the long run when it comes to finishing races and accomplishing team goals.
“We could be the best of friend on land but once the work starts we know how to improve each other,” she said. “I think if we just keep pushing ourselves more and more, we’ll have a lot more competitiveness with other schools and other teams, and I’m really excited to do that.”
Wrapping up the fall season, the rowing team will be travelling to Chattanooga to compete in The Head of the Hooch competition that will be held on Saturday, Nov. 5. A start time for the race is to be announced.