Cathy McDermott ’12 is a senior on the women’s crew team who raced in the first varsity boat last spring at the NCAA Championships. Over the summer, she rowed for the U.S. national team in the U23 World Championships with her boat winning fifth place in the competition. She talked with the News about her crew’s off season, last year’s mistakes, and the best things about being on the team.

Q: What is the crew off-season like?

A: The off-season? I mean, the thing is it never really feels technically like we have an off-season because we’re always training — we’re always training for the spring. But the fall is, you know, it’s a little bit more chill. We do a lot of smaller boatwork, which is really fun. It’s a good time to get the freshmen integrated into the team. So that’s kind of the main thing, I think. And we do have two races. And those are just kind of bigger, fun races, head races.

Q: Why did you want to do crew?

A: Well I rowed in high school, and so I was recruited here. I just, I love the sport. I fenced before I rowed, and then when I went to high school I tried rowing and I just loved it so much. I love the team part of it, and the hard work that it takes, and the mental power that it takes.

Q: You were on the U.S. team this summer?

A: So they invite, like, a bunch of girls to what’s called selection camp, and I was just surprised that I even got invited. Then they just make cuts from there and select it down. This year we made an eight and a four, and yeah, that’s it. Just an eight and a four. I made it. It was like two months of selection.

Q: How many were they selected from?

A: They invited 26 girls, and they make an eight and a four, so that’s 12.

Q: Did you win with that boat?

A: No, I didn’t. So I was with the four. And we did not win. We had not a great heat, and then our semifinal was really good. And then in our final, the conditions were really bad, and a girl in our boat caught a crab. I don’t know if you know what that means.

Q: What does that mean?

A: It’s like, at the finish of the stroke your oar gets caught under the water, and can like go over your head, kind of. It was like that. It shouldn’t happen at that level of rowing. We got fifth, so fifth in the world, that’s not too bad.

Q: Do a lot of girls walk onto the Yale team?

A: Not as many as we would like. We try to get as many as we can, because you can always teach somebody to row, if they’ve got good fitness. Every year we get around four, sometimes I’d say less; but generally only one or two stays. This year the [four] walk-ons seem awesome. So I think we’re going to have more staying the full year.

Q: What are your hopes this year for the team?

A: For this fall and winter, I just want us to train as hard as we can. Like, put our heads down and train and not think. Last year we thought too much about the end result and we didn’t think about just what you’ve got to do every day to get there. So I think this year our focus should just be on training every day. Just putting our heads down and training and not worrying about big races, just doing what we need to do to make our boats go as fast as they can.

Q: Was last year a little disappointing for you?

A: It was disappointing. It’s not how our team has done in the past. I just don’t think we handled the season the best that we could have. We had a lot of setbacks that you know, weren’t necessarily our fault. But you know, I think we could have reacted to them better.

Last year’s behind us. It was a learning lesson and so now we can move on and learn from what happened last year. Learn from last year and move on to this year. So that’s really exciting.

Q: What’s the hardest thing about being on the crew team?

A: Hardest thing. Well, hmm. I think the hardest thing is that — I mean this is a good thing also — it pushes you to do things that you never thought were possible. Like I’ve done things on this team and on the erg, that I never thought I would be able to do. It’s hard. You push yourselves to these limits, beyond limits that you ever thought. That’s the best part of the team honestly.

That’s the best part of rowing with these girls — every day everyone pushing each other.

Q: Are you happy about your rowing experience?

A: Oh yes. I love my team here, I love my coach — coaches. We have a new [assistant] coach this year [Christine Glandorf ’09]. And she graduated from Yale in 2009, so she was a senior my freshman year. And she was one of the people I was closest to in that class. So it’s so exciting that she’s back coaching the team now. It should be great. I’m excited.