May 20, 2010
SEATTLE - Veronica Tamsitt has been to most corners of the globe, but it's the mountains and oceans of the Pacific Northwest that made her feel the most at home. An oceanography major at the University of Washington, Tamsitt landed in the perfect environment to suit her interests. Through one of her research classes, Tamsitt took a boat out on Puget Sound to collect ocean samples for analysis.
Meanwhile, she's also likely to stroke the varsity eight at the NCAA Championships next weekend at Lake Natoma.
The 6-1 Tamsitt hails from Bungendore, Australia, a small town just outside the capital of Canberra. Like most foreign-born athletes, Tamsitt was intrigued by the opportunity to take top-level research courses in her field and compete in elite Division I athletics, a facet of Washington that makes it one of the premier all-around rowing programs in the country. She stepped off a plane at Sea-Tac Airport during a recruiting visit almost three years ago and was hooked. This was where she wanted to be.
Now she's developed herself into one of the top oarswomen in the No.7-ranked UW program. Women's coach and rowing director Bob Ernst said that Tamsitt is one of the team's hardest workers, both in the classroom and at Conibear Shellhouse. As the stroke, Tamsitt has also begun to embrace more of a leadership role within the varsity eight, adding extra responsibilities on to what has been a heavy plate this season. Coming off a third-place finish at the Pac-10 Championships, Tamsitt is determined to use the NCAAs as an opportunity to showcase Husky rowing.
"It's not so much how we performed at Pac-10s, but how we respond," Tamsitt said. "We have a week to go, and (the boat) is confident that we can be competitive at NCAAs against the other teams."
About the only adjustment for Tamsitt so far was to understand how deep the rivalries run in collegiate rowing. Naturally, the sophomore was not up to speed on the Cal-Washington dual when she first arrived, but that has since changed. It's impossible to walk through Conibear during Cal week and not absorb the rivalry in some shape or fashion.
Homesickness used to be the issue that could derail a foreign-born athletes experience in the States. Now with Skype, Facebook and Twitter, the considerable distances between Europe and Australia/New Zealand has shortened. Add to the equation that Seattle - and the UW for that matter - is an epicenter for the globally minded, meaning there are opportunities to connect with people from all over the world.
What impresses Ernst so much is how Tamsitt is able to juggle such a demanding major as oceanography along with rowing. He said it's a credit to her educational background at Canberra Girls Grammar school, and the rigorous course loads she undertook. Is it a recommended course of study for all student-athletes? No. But Tamsitt has handled it with aplomb (3.63 GPA).
Not bad for someone who first came to Seattle on a lark.
It wasn't until a recruitment package from Washington arrived to her parent's ranch in Bungendore that Tamsitt even considered attending school in the states. The international races on her resume with the Australian junior team, which included the 2007 World Juniors in Beijing, had attracted interest from other schools. But Tamsitt was more interested in attending the University of Sydney, the same institution her two brothers - including her twin, Mark - attend, and where she had a scholarship offer waiting.
"I thought, I may as well go have a look," Tamsitt said. "And I was just blown away by the campus, the academics, the team and the (rowing) program. It's the total package."
The surrounding scenery was a big draw as well. Tamsitt likened the environs to the small Australian island of Tasmania (located just south of the state of Victoria), but on a much larger scale. Occasionally, Tamsitt will take an impromptu road trip to the Olympic Peninsula or the San Juan Islands, soaking up the best the Pacific Northwest has to offer. Even the intermittent winter rain wasn't enough to deter her.
"We were just coming off a 12-year drought," Tamsitt said. "So I appreciate every drop of rain we get."