Athlete Spotlight: Nikki Hallahan
Meet Nikki Hallahan, a freshman on the rowing team at Purdue University. Nikki started rowing in high school, and hasn't looked back! Her favorite pre-practice snack is a protein shake she makes in her dorm room with protein powder, almond milk, vitamins/supplements, and yogurt. Her favorite seat is bow seat in a 4x, and she is also bisweptual when rowing sweep! Read about how special rowing is to her, what her goals are for the season, and what she recommends to high schoolers considering rowing in college.
JL Racing: How long have you been rowing and how did you get into the sport?Nikki Hallahan: I have been rowing for about five years, ever since my freshman year of high school. I played mostly soccer as well as many other sports for my entire life, but eventually grew out of it due to the intense competitiveness, drama, and toxicity within the teams. I decided it was time for something new - and rowing had been in the back of my mind for a while. I had always heard that rowing was one of the most rigorous sports that works the body well, so I decided to try it to get my body back in shape since quitting soccer. As I learned to love rowing and being on the water, the team environment was different than any other sport I had played; everyone was so supportive of one another and really worked as a team to become better.
JL: What makes rowing different from other sports? Describe the team culture you experienced in high school and at Purdue.
Nikki: I have attempted many different sports growing up from gymnastics to lacrosse, so I have had the opportunity to be exposed different kinds of team environments. This has helped me narrow down what is so amazing about the team culture of crew. From my experience, other sports tend to be based on individual strengths, leading to unhealthy competition and therefore team division. In crew, however, every single rower must work together to succeed, which promotes unity. In my mind, it comes down to one main principle: dependency on my other teammates. This dependency is what helps create immediate relationships on the team in high school and at Purdue Crew. When I rowed in high school, however, I noticed the girls on the team were not very close- we only saw each other during practice times. There also was not the same drive and commitment from the rowers in high school than in Purdue Crew. At Purdue, almost everyone on the team is a full-time student at Purdue University, balancing heavy schedules and stress. Therefore, coming to practice 6 days a week is a choice that takes major time management. Because of this commitment, I have noticed that the people on the team are great friends who spend lots of time with each other outside of practice. I have also found amazing groups of friends who I have formed deep connections with. Although Purdue Crew is more serious with a higher commitment than my high school, it allows the team to create stronger and more meaningful relationships, leading to a positive team environment.
JL: What is the most rewarding part of being a rower?
Nikki: The most rewarding part of rowing is hands down being on the water. There are moments as a rower where everything within the boat is flowing perfectly, every single person is perfectly in sync, leading to such a rush of euphoria as all eight rowers turn into just one. At that same moment, I know exactly what every other rower is thinking and how hard they are pushing. We are all working to achieve the same goal- and it is one of my favorite feelings ever.
JL: Is there a moment that you can pick out from your years in the sport where you felt the proudest? Or is there an accomplishment you would like to share?
Nikki: One of my proudest moments as a rower is from about three years ago, in a race where I knew that I may not win. I was in a double with one other rower, up against three other boats. After the start was called and we started rowing as hard as we could, I noticed that we weren’t behind the other boats like I thought, but we were actually tied with all of them. Right then and there a switch flicked in mind. Since I was stroking, I decided to go a bit faster than we had practiced and hold it even when it hurt more than anything. But I knew the rower in bow was in the same mindset: we were going to win this race. Even though it was difficult, we both knew that there was still a chance of us winning, so we pulled hard the entire way for the next two thousand meters until we were the first boat to cross the finish line. I like to think of this race as a defining moment in my rowing career- I was finally able to understand what pushing myself meant. To keep going even though I feel my muscles going numb, to keep breathing even though it feels as though I lost the ability to, and to keep my mind focused on the goal. Because in the end, the most important factor rowing as well as any other sport is mindset, and the flick of a switch that day which improved my mindset is what made us win that race.
JL: What are your rowing goals for the upcoming season/year?Nikki: I have two goals for the upcoming season: to improve my bladework and power on the water, and to go under 7:40 as my 2k time on the erg. While my teammates and I are putting in a lot of time on the erg during this current winter season, we are all working to improve our 2k times. With those new times will come increased power on the water. However, as soon as I am back on the water to row, I need to start heavily working on my technique. This is a goal for me because I believe that technique can make or break a boat and improves a boat’s speed drastically.
JL: What advice do you have for a high schooler who is interested in rowing in college?
Nikki: If you are a high schooler who is interested in rowing in college, do it. From my experience as well as what I have heard from my other friends on the team, rowing in college is such a valuable experience including immediate and lifelong friends, keeping in great shape, and giving a break from school and classes every day. When first joining Purdue Crew, I was worried that my passion for rowing would die out because of the high commitment, but in turn, it skyrocketed higher than any point I felt in high school. Rowing has made my college experience at Purdue so far, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.