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All-American nod for rower and Auburn Mountainview grad Bluhm
It didn’t take Stephanie Bluhm long to reach the pinnacle of her sport.
Less than a year after getting her first taste of competitive rowing as a freshman on the Western Washington University women’s crew program, the Auburn Mountainview graduate found herself standing atop the podium as a member of the 2010 NCAA Division II Viking rowing championship squad.
“It was very exciting,” she said. “I’m not sure I knew how big of a deal it was at the time. I knew we had a good team, but I realize now how special it was looking back.”
This past weekend Bluhm capped her collegiate career at the 12th annual NCAA Division II Championships at Eagle Creek Park in Indiana. Bluhm and the rest of the Viking team finished third.
“It’s not the result we wanted, but I’m not disappointed in the team,” Bluhm said. “The other boats in the field were really fast this year. It’s actually really exciting to see all the other schools getting faster and watching them rise up to a higher level.”
Rising to a higher level is something Bluhm knows a lot about.
During her days at Auburn Mountainview, Bluhm was active on the school’s varsity swimming and water polo teams. After graduating in 2009 and heading to Bellingham to start school, she said her mother tipped her off about the Lady Vikings’ successful rowing team.
“My mom actually let me know Western had a pretty good crew program,” Bluhm said. “I was tall, athletic and had good arms, so I tried out. I’m pretty well rounded athletic-wise; it wasn’t out of my comfort zone, working hard and training.”
Although gifted athletically, Bluhm said a few of the technical aspects of rowing did take time to master.
“The hardest was probably how to keep the boat set,” she said. “When you’re in the boat you want to keep the oar handles at the same height as every other one, otherwise, it will tip to one side and rock. Besides that, feathering the oar was new. That’s when you have to turn the blade from parallel to perpendicular when you put it in the water. But I grabbed that pretty quick.”
She soon found herself rowing in the nationals in the school’s four-person varsity boat.
Bluhm continued to excel as a rower, advancing to the varsity-eight boat as a sophomore and again winning a national title for the Vikings.
As a junior she was selected as a team captain and helped lead the Vikings to a second-place finish at the nationals.
As a senior Bluhm was again chosen as a team captain and earned the position of stroke on the school’s varsity eight. Usually bestowed to the most technically sound rower, the stroke sets the rhythm of the boat.
“I was responsible for setting the pace of the boat,” she said.
Her efforts this year in the boat earned her a nod as a first-team Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association Division II Pocock All-American and a selection to the Northwest Collegiate Rowing Conference All-Star team.
Although her collegiate athletic eligibility is now gone, Bluhm said she’ll stay on at WWU to complete her degree in kinesthesiology. She plans to become a personal trainer after graduating next year.
“I’m sure I’m going to miss (rowing) but I’m kind of looking forward to focusing on school next year,” Bluhm said. “It’s hard to put your whole heart in school when you’re doing 40 hours a week training as an athlete. It’s a very mentally exhausting sport. It will be nice to take some time off. I look at it as more a welcome break. I will miss it and I’ve always been an athlete, so I’ll find other things to take the place of rowing.”
And she hasn’t ruled out possibly coaching the sport sometime in the future.
“I haven’t really looked into it, but there are tons of rowing clubs all over in Seattle and Bellingham,” she said. “If I ever did that, I think it would be in the future. I’ll just have to wait and see.”