April 15, 2009
Martelli excels on the water, in the classroom
By Scott Eisen
Most college students complain about four-hour class days or waking up at 7:30 for a lecture.
UW women's crew member Adrienne Martelli, however, arguably puts those complaints to shame. The 6-foot-1 junior from University Place, Wash., has worked her way up from walk-on to varsity champion while studying biology as a pre-med major.
Waking up just after 5 a.m. every weekday for practice, Martelli has managed to become one of the UW's star athletes, while maintaining high grades in a difficult major and volunteering three hours per week at a hospital.
Three years ago, though, she never could have imagined such success. Excelling in basketball and cross country at Curtis High School, Martelli's height and natural athleticism caught the eyes of UW crew coaches, who sent her recruiting packets in the 11th grade. While she had never been around boats at all growing up, Martelli figured she would go for it anyway.
"It sounded really interesting, and I always wanted to go to the UW," Martelli said. "I didn't have any plans of playing basketball or cross country during college, so it just seemed like a really good fit for me."
The fit was perfect. Having played two high-school sports, Martelli was in good enough shape to handle the rigorous training workouts, and she picked up the intricacies of the sport quickly.
Even with this natural ability, there were a lot of nerves for the freshman walk-on in her very first race.
"I didn't really race until Class Day [Regatta] in the spring," she said. "I was still really nervous for it, but it went pretty well."
Pushed by the competition and success of other UW rowers, Martelli was relentless in not just making the team, but becoming a leader by example.
"The most important thing is, she has a great work ethic and she's a great student," said women's coach Bob Ernst. "Our team is mainly workers. We don't really have any superstars on our team, and she's a standout."
Moving from walk-on to scholarship athlete, Martelli rowed in the integral bow seat on the varsity four last year as the team capped a phenomenal season by winning the NCAA championship.
"That was one of the greatest feelings I've ever had," Martelli said. "Just the sense of accomplishment and really doing it as a boat, and as a team."
Last summer, following the impressive championship victory, Martelli proved that she was just beginning to show what she was capable of. Rowing with teammate Alison Browning, the pair won two gold medals at the U.S. Club National Regatta in New Jersey.
This year, Martelli is looking to take the next step and repeat last year's success with the No. 6 UW varsity women's eight.
It's hard work for the walk-on-turned-star, but she is confident that her time in crew will pay dividends whether she continues to compete beyond college or pursues her goal of becoming an orthopedic surgeon.
"You learn a lot about yourself, especially in terms of what you are capable of," Martelli said. "There comes a point where you want to stop, but you just have to push harder. It's really a mental challenge above just the physical challenge, so I find that really fulfilling for me."