Taking a chance on a new sport leads to scholarship

Kate Bricker overcomes her fears, then excels in rowing

VANCOUVER — She was not only new to the sport, she was new to anything associated with the sport.

Rowing? Heck, Kate Bricker could barely swim.

“I wasn’t a water person. It kind of terrified me,” said Bricker, a recent graduate from Union High School.

“I had to take swim lessons in order to row,” she said.

That was just a few years ago.

“All these 5-year-olds are going back-and forth, and I was learning how to blow bubbles,” she said with a laugh.

The fear remained for a bit, but she managed to get into a shell. 

Taking a chance on a new sport leads to scholarship
Kate Bricker, a recent graduate from Union High School, will be going to the University of San Diego on a rowing scholarship. She started the sport just a couple of years ago. Photo by Carl LaCasse/Red Letter Days Photography.

“The first time, it was terrifying but awesome,” Bricker said. “I remember looking out to the side and there was a ton of water two inches from me. I was terrified.”

Yet intrigued. 

That first journey on the water came toward the end of her sophomore year at Union High School. 

That adrenaline rush was more powerful than the fear.

She was hooked.

A couple years later, this sport has carved a way to college. Bricker signed a letter of intent to row at the University of San Diego. 

Bricker is one of a number of Clark County athletes through the years who have earned scholarship money in a sport they knew nothing about until the last few years of high school.

“When I went to high school, I thought I was going to be the next basketball star,” Bricker said. She also played volleyball and competed in track and field. She got a little burned out of the more traditional sports, though, and a friend suggested she try rowing.

“The coaches were very positive, always complimenting you,” she said. “They are constantly telling you, ‘You are a natural.’ That was very encouraging.”

That positive feedback made Bricker want to come back for more.

“It got me really excited. ‘Oh, I can do this.’”

It became her sport. A little more than a year after she first got in a shell, she spent a month at a high performance camp in Connecticut. 

A college fair was at that camp, too. Coaches were looking for athletes. Bricker fit the bill. It came down to two, the University of Tennessee and San Diego. She loved her visit to Tennessee, and she was so close to saying yes. San Diego, though, was closer to home.

Taking a chance on a new sport leads to scholarship
Kate Bricker (left) and Grace Dojan finished fourth in the youth nationals this summer. Dojan, of Skyview, is going to Gonzaga University. Photo courtesy of U.S. Rowing

“I don’t know how it worked out, but it did,” Bricker said.

That friend who invited Bricker to the sport? That would be Jordan Griffin, also of Union. She signed her letter of intent to compete at Sacramento State.

This summer, Bricker and her teammates at the Vancouver Lake Rowing Club excelled at youth nationals in Florida. She and her doubles partner Grace Dojan, a Skyview graduate who will be going to Gonzaga, finished fourth. The quads team — Claire Scott, Mara Cassidy, along with Dojan and Bricker — took 10th. 

A few years ago, Bricker didn’t know anything about rowing. It is crazy, she said, looking back at her introduction to the sport and now going to college in the sport. 

“You’ve got to give it a fair shot. You never know,” she said.

“I’d come home and I’d be shaking,” Bricker said. “I was terrified, but for some reason, I wanted to give it a fair shot. I’m glad I did.”

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About The Author

Paul Valencia joins ClarkCountyToday.com after more than two decades of newspaper experience. He became the face of high school sports coverage in Clark County during his 17 years at The Columbian. Before moving to Vancouver, Paul worked at Oregon daily newspapers in Pendleton, Roseburg, and Salem. A graduate of David Douglas High School in Portland, Paul enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving three years as a soldier/journalist. He and his wife Jenny recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. They have a son who has a passion for karate and Minecraft. Paul’s hobbies include: Watching the Raiders play football, reading about the Raiders playing football, and waiting to watch and read about the Raiders playing football.

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