April 22, 2010
SEATTLE - Before her first race against Cal, Heather Young heard all week about the intensity of Washington's rivalry with the Bay Area school. Even though the Arlington, Va., native was 3,000 miles away from home, Young was quickly indoctrinated as if she grew up a Husky her entire life.
Now a senior, Young is prepped for her final dual against the Golden Bears, which takes place on Saturday beginning at 9 a.m. at Redwood Shores in Belmont, Calif. This week, she allowed her thoughts to shift nostalgically back to those days, when she listened to the seniors stressed the importance of Cal Week. A global nomad as a child, Young felt at home right away in Seattle with the tight-knit Huskies.
"Coming in with that social network, knowing that I was a part of something already, made it so much easier to transition," Young said. "You're in a group of people who have the same interests and the same drive and motivation. Even from the get-go, though, we were always pretty pumped about Cal."
Growing up, Young was rarely in one place for more than a few years. Her parents are both employees of the U.S. State Department, so she's had the opportunity to settle in all corners of the globe. Young's lived in Bangladesh, India and Jordan, where she experienced an atypical upbringing. She recalled days when her father would dress her in a bindi (a typical Indian headdress) and take her to Ganesh Chaturthi, a traditional Hindi summer festival. Even now, her parents are active worldwide travelers. Young said it's not far-fetched to hear about her dad's latest adventures, for example, in Yemen speaking fluent Arabic on the streets.
With the help of her degree from the UW (geography and public health), Young hopes to embark upon a similar path when she graduates. Her dream is to work in French-speaking West Africa (such as Senegal), providing aid and creating foreign policy for the disadvantaged and the malnourished. Two classes at Washington that helped steer her to working in public aid: Geography of Inequalities and World Hunger & Agricultural Development.
"It really opened my eyes to what has gone on out there," Young said. "I mean, growing up I had seen a lot of poverty and lived in third-world countries, but (these classes) gave me more of a definition."
Like most East Coasters who row at Washington, Young was drawn to the crisp air and the mountains the Pacific Northwest provides, as well as the program's success in the sport. She recalled a mental snapshot she took of her recruiting visit, when she soaked in the view of Lake Union and Space Needle from the coach's launch.
Wanting to do something different, Young packed her bags and headed west. Still, it was a difficult adjustment. While Young eased seamlessly into her social life at the UW, rowing was a different story. She was at a disadvantage compared to prep rowers from the region. In the Washington D.C. region, schools row 1,500-meter races in the spring. Here in the Northwest, prep athletes for the most part row for clubs (a la Green Lake, Vashon Island or Mt. Baker, etc) and race in 2,000-meter events. That meant Young was behind the curve on her fitness compared to most of the other recruits.
Nearing the end of her career at Washington, Young would like to close out this season on a strong note. Her novice season, Young's boat topped Cal by 17 seconds. She'd like to bookend the dual with a similar result.
Beating Cal also keeps her focus off the pressing concerns that affect most college seniors - finding a job.
"That's a huge thing for me right now," Young said with a laugh.