Mason's Maureen McAuliffe ('11) to Row for Team USA at 2017 World Championships

By Atlantic 10 Conference

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Courtesy: Atlantic 10 Conference

FAIRFAX, Va. – Former George Mason University rowing standout Maureen McAuliffe is ready to represent the Patriots on one of the sport's grandest stages after qualifying for the 2017 World Championships this past month.
Just the second National Team member in school history, McAuliffe will compete in the United States Women's Quadruple Sculls event September 24-October 1 at the global competition, held this year in Florida. A 2011 All-America selection, McAuliffe first competed on the national stage later that year as a member of the U.S. eight boat at the U-23 World Championships in the Netherlands. The 2017 event will be her first as a member of the senior national team.
McAuliffe recently spoke with about her post-collegiate career, her experiences rowing at Mason and her ultimate goal of qualifying for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
1) Share with us your emotions on making the U.S. Team. How does it make you feel?
"I'm so honored to represent the USA at this level and represent Mason as well. It's been a long road – about six years of training. But it makes the journey that much sweeter. I am rowing with some amazing women and we push each other harder every day. I can't wait to go to the line with them on race day."
2) What is the qualification process like? How long have you been striving to make the team?
"There are only a few regattas each year that serve as trial events where you can represent yourself or team in a smaller boat, whether it's a single, double or pair, to earn a berth on the national team. This year I went to National Selection Regatta 1&2 and U.S. World Championship Trials and I placed in the top-3 in two of them. I was on the radar at that point. I didn't win the event, but I did well enough where I was noticed by the national team coach and was invited to a big boat camp, the quad.
The camp was two weeks long and one of the most intense experiences I've ever had.  There were 11 women battling for four seats. At the end of camp I had proven my speed on the water and on the indoor rowing machine and was named to the boat. It still feels surreal! I have been racing at these trial events since 2014 but had a breakthrough this year with my new team and coach.  
3) What has your post-collegiate rowing career involved?

"Once I graduated from Mason, I moved to Boston to row with an elite team out of Riverside Boat Club. I was working full-time at first, which was impossible with full-time training. So I started working part-time and lived paycheck to paycheck to make it work. Then, this opportunity in Saratoga, New York, came up with this new team called ARION. It stands for Advanced Rowing Initiative of the Northeast. It's a new team that funds rowers and pays for their rent in return for coaching their middle school program [Saratoga Rowing Association].
So a series of elite women flocked to this training center. I've only been there for eight months, but my performance has skyrocketed because of my amazing coach and teammates. I have to thank him for putting in so much time with me and my teammates for pushing me every day."
"Right now in World Championship training, there are 2-3 practices a day and we're living with host families in Princeton to make it work. Outside of training there's recovery, physical therapy, grocery shopping and meal planning. That's basically our day, eat sleep row!"
4) What was your experience like in 2011 earning a bronze medal with the U-23 team?
"I had just graduated and it was my first taste of international rowing. A lot of the girls had been in the rowing world since high school. I came in as a walk-on at George Mason. I only had four years under my belt, compared to eight for most of the competitors. That feeling of going to Amsterdam for the World Championship and racing side by side with the elite – it was an incredible feeling. I've been chasing that experience ever since. In the meantime, I've discovered all kinds of boat classes. In college, we mostly raced the big eight boats. But since then, my journey has been the single and double and appreciating the small boat life."
5) After starting as a novice rower at Mason with no experience in 2007, did you ever think you'd make it to such an elite level?
"As a freshman, absolutely not. I was rowing for the fun of it. That was the focus for me. But then I started setting goals and I achieved them one by one. My novice coach, Ellen Gallagher, set the wheels in motion when she sent me to a USRowing Identification Camp as a junior. This is the first way to get on the national team's radar as an individual. As I continued to raise the bar, I started training with the men's club team to push even more. It was a great dynamic, because I wanted to beat the boys and they were trying to prevent that. It was a great back and forth. I have to thank the varsity women, as well as the men's crew club for pushing me this far."
6) How did your time at George Mason prepare you for what you've accomplished?
"A team's bond is something very special in our sport. Hearts, minds, and bodies must all be in sync while operating at 34-36 strokes per minute. That's fast. I learned from my teammates what heart is and what pushing yourself past your limit can do. I was very motivated by my team and loved seeing us get faster as a group. Mason taught me how important team culture is and I've carried that with me through all of my training."
7) Is there anyone at Mason that made a particularly strong influence on your life?
"Bob Spousta, the men's crew club coach. He's been coaching at Mason for 30 years. Bob has been with me through every up and down, especially the downs. I feel very lucky to have him in my corner. Also, [current Mason rowing head coach] Ted Nagorsen has been very helpful in my career. When I first started rowing post-collegiately, I was asked to provide my own boat, which would've cost thousands of dollars. And Ted lent me his, no questions asked. I'll never forget that."
8) What are your goals for your boat at the World Championships in Florida? Do you have experience with the other athletes in your boat?
"One woman in the quad is a current teammate of mine in Saratoga. She was my doubles partner at National Selection Regatta 2. The other two women I've known for a while, but we've never rowed together. We're all coming from different clubs with different styles and molding together in one boat always takes time. But I believe we've accomplished that very quickly because we are all coming from smaller boats and have great boat feel. We are counting down the days until we are sitting ready at the start line in Sarasota!"
9) What's your ultimate career goal?
"I'm planning to go for Tokyo in 2020. I don't know what boat class I will go for, but I've raced in them all at this point. I'd be happy to make any boat in a World Championship or Olympic Games. But regardless of boat, that's my ultimate goal and I'm willing to keep any seat open."

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