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The Student-Run News Site of Westside High School in Omaha, Nebraska. Keeping you WIRED in to all things Westside.

Westside Wired

The Student-Run News Site of Westside High School in Omaha, Nebraska. Keeping you WIRED in to all things Westside.

Westside Wired

The Student-Run News Site of Westside High School in Omaha, Nebraska. Keeping you WIRED in to all things Westside.

Westside Wired

Rower balances rigorous academics and impressive sporting achievements

Rachel Dowd
Dowd’s time management has come back to reward her with a place at Columbia University.

Senior Rachel Dowd is ranked in the top 1% of her class, but also excels off-campus, earning medals year-round for her impressive rowing expertise and working as a cancer researcher at UNMC in the summer.

Dowd is no stranger to rowing, as the sport has been an integral part of her family. Her father was a renowned rowing coach at Brock University in Ontario, CA. and is credited with transforming that program into Canada’s best. Alongside this accomplishment, he also coached the olympic rowing team in Canada, and is now an assistant coach at Creighton University. 

“I definitely have some big shoes to fill,” Dowd said. “I try not to let that sort of penetrate my psyche that much, or like affect my mental state because it can kind of freak you out. It makes you anxious when you’re trying to live up to other people’s expectations. My family happens to do the sport and they’ve done it very well, but I also do the sport and I like it, and I’m okay with whatever level I end up doing it at.”

Dowd moved to Omaha from Denver, Colorado in 2019, where she was forced to adjust to a city with an extremely small rowing community.

“It was rough to move from a place where junior rowing was very prevalent in the community to somewhere where nobody knew what rowing even was,” Dowd said. “That was really hard to go from being in a little bit more of a team environment to being completely on my own, training by myself. It was just my brother and I.” 

Dowd’s father’s position as a coach for the women’s rowing team at Creighton University provides Dowd with the opportunity to connect with the rowing community in a way she would have otherwise missed out on. 

“I get up at 4:45 am and drive to the Creighton University campus where my dad coaches the women’s team and I practice along with the athletes,” Dowd said. “It’s really hard to build a sense of community and it has been made so much easier by being on a team with all of those girls, and I really am grateful that even though I’m not a student at that university, they’ve involved me in their activities. Things like that are really important, and I think that’s made rowing easier for me and it’s therefore made me a better rower.”

As a student athlete, Dowd must effectively balance her commitment to rowing and her advanced course schedule, sometimes leaving practice at Creighton early in order to make it to school. 

“If I’m not rowing, chances are that I’m eating or sleeping,” Dowd said. “It’s really hard sometimes to muster up the energy to work on stuff for school, but I think it makes you really organized. I had two weeks off in between seasons, and my grades went up so much in such a short span of time. It’s not even the time commitment so much as how much it tires you out. Rowing made me better as a person because I’m more organized.”

On top of her busy school years, Dowd has been working at UNMC through SURP, a program meant for undergraduates interested in research. 

“It was meant for grad students but they wanted to try high school students in the program,” Dowd said. “I heard about that and I felt like it sounded like a good opportunity. I got accepted into the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and for the past two summers, I’ve been working on pancreatic cancer research.”

Dowd explained that the job will help her in her expected career path in the field of research.

“It feels really good to be a part of something that is helping people even if it’s not as direct as being a you know, a doctor or a nurse or some type of first responder,” Dowd said. “My parents instilled a sense of ‘whatever I do with my life, it should give back to the world,’ And I feel like this would be a good way for me to give back. I’m thinking of pursuing a career in biomedical research or biomedical engineering, something like that, because I really want to help people.’

Dowd’s successful time management has earned her a spot at Columbia University in the City of New York, where she will continue rowing at the collegiate level. 

“Rowing has opened up college opportunities to me because of my abilities within that sport and how the things I’ve learned have transferred into my academics, and that’s why I’m committed to a really good university,” Dowd said. “You really do need to be disciplined, not only physically but psychologically; I think that really helped me to be a good student. I just really like learning… It would be boring if people didn’t pay attention in school. You might not use everything you’re learning, but it’s still really, really cool. Not enough people acknowledge that, and a lot of people take the things that they learn here for granted.”

Along with the many concrete rewards the sport has come with, Dowd has personally gained more from her time on the water.

“While you’re putting yourself in a physical discomfort, it honestly provides a really good place to think and it both builds character and sort of reveals who you are as a person, and I really like that,” Dowd said. “I think that participating in any sport, the sport I chose just happened to be rowing, has made me a better and more well rounded individual.”

Dowd said that everyone should attempt a sport at any point in their life, but emphasized the importance of being part of a team. 

“I think people just need something that provides them with a sense of community,” Dowd said. “Whether that’s doing a sport, being on a debate team or being really involved in your local youth group, I think that it’s really good to be a part of something. I chose to do that through sports, but it doesn’t really matter what you choose to do as long as you enjoy it and it inspires you to get better at life.

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About the Contributors
Tanatswa Chivero, Co-Editor in Chief
Hi! My name is Tanatswa Chivero, and I am a Co-Editor in Chief for Wired. I am currently a senior, and this is my fourth year in journalism. If you have any questions or comments, please contact me at [email protected]!
Rachel Dowd, Wired Managing Editor
Hey, my name is Rachel Dowd! I am a Managing Editor for Westside Wired this year. I am currently a junior and this is my third year on Wired. A fun fact about me is that I went as a pirate 4 years in a row, using the same costume, from ages 5-9. No reason. I just like pirates. If you have any questions or comments, please contact me at [email protected].
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