Ex-ESD Rower Doesn’t Go Gently Down the Stream

Katelin Gildersleeve has decreased her workload from two oars to one, yet her boat is moving faster than ever.

The ESD alumna has achieved international rowing success as a single sculler — which entails going solo. But at Stanford, where Gildersleeve is in the midst of her freshman season, the team only races fours and eights.

That means that instead of having oars in each hand and navigating the boat herself, she rows with both hands on a single oar, and follows steering instructions from a coxswain.

Such an adjustment can be a challenge, but she’s embraced her new role on one of the top collegiate crew programs in the country. Team practices in college, for example, are different than Gildersleeve’s high school days when she usually trained on her own in Dallas.

“It’s great to go through these intense workouts and challenge each other every day.” -Katelin Gildersleeve

Katelin Gildersleeve

“We all share the same goals, and we’re all at a similar level. It helps you elevate your own racing that much more,” Gildersleeve said. “It’s great to go through these intense workouts and challenge each other every day. You’re surrounded by these incredible teammates who struggle right next to you.”

Gildersleeve grew up as part of an athletic family in Florida, where she was on a youth triathlon team. When she moved to Texas in middle school, she focused primarily on running, then eventually switched to rowing.

Her breakthrough came in 2018, when she won the junior single sculls at the prestigious Head of the Charles Regatta in Massachusetts, then finished third in her division at the national youth championships.

The following summer, Gildersleeve spent most of her time training in Oklahoma City with her private coach. That led to a runner-up finish at nationals and an invitation to the World Rowing Junior Championships in Tokyo, where she claimed a bronze medal.

“I went into it with very realistic expectations,” Gildersleeve said. “I wasn’t nervous. I was so genuinely excited to have gotten that opportunity. It was so exciting and rewarding.”

Gildersleeve hasn’t decided on her plans for this summer, although she will likely go back to sculling in hopes of qualifying for the United States under-23 national team. That would earn her a spot in the World Rowing Championships in August in Slovenia.

Further, in the future, her goal is to compete in the Olympics, perhaps in 2024 in Paris or 2028 in Los Angeles.

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