Abigail Parker

Club CUBC Women

Year of Birth 1994

Hometown Boston, MA

Nationality American

College Emmanuel

Undergrad/Graduate PhD

Year 4th

What are you studying? Zoology

What is the most interesting part of your course? Do you have any professional or academic plans after? The best part of my course has been doing fieldwork looking for fossils in the Turkana Basin in Ethiopia and Kenya. I really enjoyed my summers camping out and studying the crocodiles and turtles that lived alongside the early humans from that area. I want to continue studying fossils to explore how extinct ecosystems functioned.

How do you balance rowing and academic life? First of all, get enough sleep. Rowing training gives my days and weeks structure, so I know I need to get my PhD work done between morning and evening sessions. I really enjoy having the two focuses of rowing and studying. Switching between the two strengthens them both.

When did you start rowing, and why? I was exposed to the sport from birth with two US Olympians and rowing coaches for parents. I grew up around the boathouse and watching excellent racing. I was never pushed to row, but by the time I was old enough to start racing myself, I already loved the sport. I got totally hooked on the process of training with my high school team.

What was your first club? Winsor Crew (my high school in Boston).

What is your favourite part of rowing for Cambridge? I love training with such a motivated and focused squad. Everyone here is intent on improving every day, loves racing, and is very tuned in to technique. I have learned so much from the team. Our individual contributions make the team greater than the sum of its parts.

What’s your rowing history, and what has been your biggest achievement so far? I raced for four years at The Winsor School, winning the New England Interscholastic Rowing Association team championships three times. I rowed for the Radcliffe Varsity Heavyweight team at Harvard University for four years during my undergrad, winning the Head of the Charles Club Eight in 2013 and placing 12th in the Varsity Eight at the NCAA Championships in 2015. Over the summers in high school and college, I did a lot of sculling racing, including medalling at USRowing Club National Championships and placing 3rd at the US under-23 trials in the single in 2015 and 2nd in the double at the 2016 under-23 trials. Since coming to Cambridge, my most memorable races have been placing 3rd in the quad at the European University Games in 2018 and of course winning in Blondie as part of the Cambridge sweep of the 2019 Boat Races.

Have you raced in the Boat Race before? If yes, when? I raced in Blondie in 2019.

Your favourite race so far? One recent race I enjoy looking back on is my quarter final in the championship single at Henley Women’s in 2019. I love dual racing, and I came from behind to win this one.

Do you have any race day habits or superstitions? Oatmeal and peanut butter.

Your sporting idol? My mom, Kathy Keeler. Growing up with an Olympic gold medallist as a mother taught me so much about the power of women’s sports. My mom is strong and competitive with the attitude of confidence that it takes to win races.

What gets you through a tough session? Do you have a mantra, rituals? I love a thorough warm-up including lots of stretching. In the middle of a hard session, I am happy just to fully inhabit the pain cave. I perform best when my mind is relatively empty and I trust myself to do what I am capable of, holding nothing back.

How do you motivate yourself and your teammates, especially with Covid restrictions? I really enjoy the day-to-day process of training. This year’s lockdowns have made me especially appreciate the focus that our program of workouts gives me and the measurable improvements I have made. I am also obsessive when it comes to intrasquad competitions, so have been racking up points on our remote training spreadsheets. Even when I’m training alone, I feel connected to the team because I know everything I do is contributing to something bigger - boat speed when we get back in our eights.