By Addison Lake
Oct. 13, 2016.
Maddie Irelan was the first rower to slide her boat into the dark water as a brisk wind coming off the Kansas River made the 45 degree October morning colder. She and her rowing partner were almost out of eyesight at the bend of the river, while the six-person boats were just leaving the dock of the KU boathouse.
A senior at the University of Kansas, Irelan is a varsity rower, the president of a student athlete leadership committee and pursuing a degree in broadcast journalism.
Irelan whirls from 6:30 a.m. rowing practice to a full schedule of classes to extracurricular student athlete responsibilities. While many college students have similar busy schedules, Irelan thrives off of the chaos and obligations of a student athlete.
“Talking to my teammates in the hours that we have practice fuels who I am and what I want to do–constantly being surrounded by people and doing things,” Irelan said.
First and foremost, she is a student, but a close second is her position on KU’s rowing team, she said.
“When it comes down to it, I’m here to get my education, and I’m here to represent my school on the rowing team,” Irelan said. “I try and put my studies first, then make sure that I have good amounts of sleep and am eating well, so that I can row properly. Then everything else comes after that.”
While traveling to out-of-state tournaments, teammate Brooke Haskins said Irelan often read articles and books about rowing, whereas the rest of the team scrolled through social media.
Irelan represented the rowing team on the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), an organization that Irelan said “connect[s] student athletes to administration, the greater campus, the Lawrence community, and other student athletes.” For the past two years, she has been the president.
Her main goal as president was to allow the 500 student athletes to connect with the rest of campus with communication and cooperation, she said.
Coming from a small suburb outside of Columbus, Ohio, Irelan already had a history in the sport. She began as a freshman in high school at a club rowing team, Dublin Crew. one that claims a few year’s worth of appearances at youth national championships and matures youth rowers into division 1 collegiate athletes. It was in her first few seasons that she “totally fell in love with it,” she said.
“This is the sport for me,” Irelan said. “I quickly realized that it was something that I could do in college. Then I was recruited by KU, came here and was like, ‘This is where I belong. This is the place to be.’ Which I would’ve never imagined that I would end up in Kansas of all places,” she said with a laugh.