Aspen grad rowing in NCAA championships

Dale Strode
The Aspen Times
Aspen's Ellie Parker (in red hat) and her Stanford rowing teammates compete against the University of California (Berkeley) in the 82nd annual Big row, held in the Belmont Channel and the Redwood Shores Lagoon in Redwood Shores, California. Parker, an Aspen High School graduate, is a former Nordic ski racer and cross country runner.
Richard C. Ersted / |

Take an Aspen High School honors graduate and Nordic ski racer and drop her into the mechanical engineering program at Stanford University.

Mix her with a blend of like-minded, overachieving endurance athletes.

What do you get?

The girl in the boat.

Ellie Parker, Aspen High grad and former cross country runner, will pull for the Stanford rowing team this weekend at the NCAA Rowing Championships — literally.

Parker, a junior at Stanford, is a member of the Stanford rowing team.

She and her teammates will compete in the NCAA finals that begin today at the Sacramento State Aquatic Center at Gold River, California.

A walk-on who has developed into one of the top rowers in the program, Parker strokes for the top boat in the Stanford fleet — the third-fastest boat in the NCAA this season.

“I played several sports in high school,” Parker said in a telephone interview with The Aspen Times. “I ran cross country and I was a Nordic racer, but I wasn’t looking to continue that (at Stanford).”

Instead, she learned about the rowing program at Stanford.

Actually, she said, she fell in love with the sport.

“It seemed like a logical move,” she said of her freshman decision to row. “And I ended up falling in love with it.”

The strength and endurance aspects to the sport were an obvious draw for the former Aspen Valley Ski Club Nordic skier.

But, she said, the team aspect to rowing is one of the most powerful things she has ever experience in sport.

“Rowing is really the most team sport there is,” she said of the precision of the individual strokes that must be executed simultaneously by each rower in the boat.

“It is precise, very precise,” said Parker, the daughter of David and Elizabeth Parker. “There was definitely a growth period when I started.”

She said the other Stanford rowers were very welcoming of the girl who grew up on frozen water in Colorado. They helped her learn how to row, she said.

The team camaraderie is special among the group of endurance athletes who share their suffering, she said.

Parker also said the elegant and beautiful sport of rowing requires the athletes to stay focused and poised under pressure.

And they have to work together, she said, relating the gripping passages from the bestselling book “The Boys in the Boat,” written about the 1936 University of Washington rowing team that went on to win the Olympic gold medal in Germany.

Parker and Stanford will compete against the other NCAA rowing powers at the national championships that run through Sunday.

Ohio State is the two-time defending national champion among the women rowers.

Virginia won titles in 2012 and 2010. And Stanford won the national rowing championship in 2009.

Other leading contenders this year include Brown and Cal.