Angela Harper

Club: CUBC

Height: 163cm’

School: Shenendehowa High School, New York, USA

International rowing record: n/a

Year you first started rowing: 2018

How have you coped this year?

Essentially, by trying to focus on what I can control and not looking too far into the future. If I know that today’s training is happening, or this week’s training, then I focus on that and do my best to succeed in that. It is stressful not knowing when you’ll be on the water, when you’ll get to train or not, but trying to take advantage of every day you do have, has been the best way for me to cope.

Could you build a strong team culture while training virtually?

Yes, overwhelmingly so. We have seen so much adversity this year that I feel like we know each other so much better. Each week we have Zoom calls with the squad, some of which are social, some are training (e.g. Zoom ergs) and some are academic; Rebecca Dell started a writing workshop which started out as just working together over Zoom once a week but became so popular that we ended up doing it every day. We are all student-athletes and having this writing group where we get to socialize and work together has been amazing.

Were the isolated ergs better or worse than expected?

As a coxswain I found watching people erg on Zoom surprisingly useful. It is a chance to record video, watch someone’s technique up close, and begin to paint a picture of what each rower looks like when they row, so that when we got back on the water, I have a good idea of who needed to work on what.

What was your lockdown training set up?

I was coxing from my bedroom, so at the same desk that I work at, but again it was sort of a blessing in disguise. It was a way to practice what I want to say in the boat but without any external factors so in a way a really good way to practice my calls. But on the other hand coxing without feeling anything from the rowers was especially hard. You can’t really judge how someone is feeling just by looking at them from the side, and sometimes they were far away or the Wi-Fi would cut out, and those just aren’t things that happen in the boat.

How do you cope with race day nerves?

This year my biggest factor going into race day was knowing that the people in the boat with me, backed me. I think a lot of my first year of trialling for CUBC was centred around having to prove something, but this year it has been enjoying the process as much as I can, and actually believing that the people in the boat with me want to be there. On race day I go over my plan on paper, and then try and take a break in between the pre-row and the race, since I’ve practiced it so many times, I know I can succeed.

The biggest challenge?

At the moment we still don’t know who of the 12+2 will become the 8+1, and I know that is weighing on everyone’s minds. Especially with the uncertainty of the reserve races hanging in the balance, it feels like there is a huge potential for there to be 4 weeks of training intensely for the Boat Race and then having to go home and repeat it all again but with another crew. I don’t think anyone has ever done two boat races in one year, but for some people that stress might be a reality. In a nutshell, the biggest challenge is the uncertainty that still remains, even with a date set for one race.

The toughest session?

The toughest session to cox is when we are doing repeated interval training at specific rates, number of strokes, and with timed rests. To keep all of that in my head, make sure the timers are working, cox the pieces well, and steer the boat, is a huge amount of mental energy. Usually, Ely will give us some nasty conditions for these sessions just to add to the mix.

The best day, so far?

My favourite day so far was the final session before the November lockdown. We didn’t know how many lockdowns we would have to do, but we decided to do a “Boat Race simulation” and did a 5k piece. The weather was good, the conditions were good, and I felt like my crew really went in and decided, “If this is the last time I get to put my blade in the water, then I’m gonna do it bloody well”. And that mentality made the race awesome.

Only the Blue Boat races on the 4th April 2021: What’s it like splitting the squad?

As the 2020 Blondie cox it felt like a punch in the gut to be honest. I was even wearing my Blondie jumper on the call, unknowingly. Even though I had been selected to be part of the 12+2, it felt cruel to rip away that opportunity from the other people who had been training just as hard throughout the season. I understood the decision, completely, but it still came as quite the shock. But later in the day, after we had time to process, the 12+2 met up and decided that since half the squad wouldn’t be able to train, we would need to train just that much harder, and take advantage of every moment we have. The Boat Race isn’t won by the nine people in the boat alone, it is won by every person who trains with the squad along the way.

Is it strange to train without the reserve eight?

It is strange, and especially so, because we won’t be training in side-by-side eights. Normally at this point in the season we would have the Blue boat, Blondie, and the lightweight women all on the water together, practising being side-by-side with a crew and battling it out. But we won’t get that this year at all.

How did it feel getting back on the water?

It was like being a kid at Christmas, I could barely sleep the night before. And we had such a good session back, the weather was beautiful, and that made it even more enjoyable. It was the first day of the rest of the season, and we went out there to do our jobs.

Why do you want to beat Oxford?

The Great Ouse is our river. This is our territory and beating Oxford is defending the place that we know best. It is a Home vs. Away game, and winning means that we used our knowledge and our power to the best of our ability, and we did our job. We did what the 12+2 came here to do.