As the President of USRowing, Erin O’Connell ’92 is given the task of expanding rowing to all people and ensuring that the United States is successful in competition and expanding rowing in schools across America. Erin spent some time discussing her experience at SHC and her love for the sport.

Talk about your experience at Sacred Heart Cathedral

I attended St. Rose Academy and after the earthquake in 1989, I transferred to Sacred Heart Cathedral in the fall of 1990. There was about 90 St. Rose girls and at the time the administration and students welcomed us with open arms. It was a very comfortable environment to be in. We were able to get to attend the correct classes and the transition was easy.

I remember Dr. Hogarty ‘66 as my English teacher, and Mr. Finley, my French teacher, John Scudder ’73 was the Dean of Students. Additionally, Jo Ann Momono came over from St. Rose with us and became the co-Athletic Director at SHC.

I played soccer my senior year, and was also a member of the Pacific Rowing Club all four years in high school.

My father, Thomas O’Connell ’67 had graduated from Sacred Heart High School and had gotten me interested in rowing at a young age. I hope to pass on my love for rowing to my son, Declan, in the future.

What was your experience like at the University of Washington following your graduation from SHC?

I was fortunate to have an outstanding competitive career from 1993-96 as a coxswain on the Washington rowing team. I directed crews to three Pac-10 championships and collected a bronze medal at the NCAA Championships. As a senior, I was the team captain and was a Pac-10 All-Conference selection.

Upon graduation, I became the Assistant Varsity Coach for Women’s Crew until 2003. I coached the Huskies’ varsity 4 to three consecutive Pacific-10 Conference championships from 1999-2001.

From 2004-09, I was also a member of the NCAA Division II women’s rowing championship committee, including three years as the chairperson.

Discuss your transition to Seattle Pacific University.

In 2003, I decided to move into collegiate administration. I became the Assistant Athletic Director for Compliance and Senior Woman Administrator for five years and then the Athletic Director for seven years at Seattle Pacific University.

One of my proudest moments was forging our community partnership with the WNBA’s Seattle Storm. We rented out our practice facility and were able to connect with the organization and players. The initial five year partnership agreement was just recently extended another five years.

Tell us your about your career now at USRowing

I joined the Board of Directors at USRowing in 2010. On March 26, 2014, I was named president of the USRowing Board of Directors. I am the first female president since the organization was formed in 1982.

I am also the head of the delegation and the representative for the United States at FISA, the World Rowing Federation. Right now, we are charged by the IOC in bringing gender equality to rowing on the international level and putting together proposals for a 50/50 female to male rate for international rowing competitions.

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Share with us the highlights from your recent trip to the 2015 World Rowing Championships in Aiguebelette, France

This regatta was also the Olympic qualifier and the United States advanced 10 out of 14 crews for the Olympics. The U.S. also qualified in all women’s events- winning two gold medals. It was a terrific experience seeing our athletes participate and do so well on the world stage.

What is the next steps in the growth of USRowing and how can high school students get involved?

Rowing in Seattle, where I live is getting more and more popular. USRowing and the George Pocock Foundation have partnered to expand Erg Ed which sends coaches to middle schools and to show students how to use erg machines (indoor rowing) and expose them to the sport. The USRowing vision statement is “We are USRowing, fostering community, cultivating excellence and developing Olympic Champions. As an organization we serve all groups: youth, collegiate, masters and the US National/Olympic team”. I believe that the growth of the sport on the local level can expand with the right guidance and support. My goal as President of USRowing is to make that happen.

I am proud to hear that several SHC students and teachers are involved with the Pacific Rowing Club where I got my start and hope the sport expands within the community. Anyone interested in forming a rowing club can contact me at

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