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Adaptive rowing techniques enable varsity student-athlete

By Dave Girrard

Entering her first year at Pacific Lutheran University, Natalie McCarthy didn’t think participating in intercollegiate athletics was an option.

Although she had been a member of the track team at Steilacoom High School — competing in the 100-and-200-meter dash and long jump — McCarthy didn’t think her ability level was high enough for PLU.

“In high school I was on the track team and enjoyed being on a team, but didn’t think I was quite what the track team here at PLU was looking for,” she said. “Someone suggested that if I liked sports I should try crew. So I decided to check it out.”

There was one wrinkle, however. McCarthy is legally blind.

After she struggled with vision and stomach problems, balance issues and severe headaches for “a long amount of time,” McCarthy’s parents finally convinced her to see a doctor. She underwent surgery the very next day.

The doctor found an astrocytoma, a type of brain tumor. Removing the tumor caused damage to the optic nerve because of a loss of blood flow. McCarthy was 10 years old at the time. She can tell the difference between light and dark, and see motion. Some colors also stand out.

PLU head coach Tone Lawver ’95 said the initial step was making the boats, oars and other equipment comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Adaptive rowing has been around for awhile,” he said. “It actually got its start from a PLU alum, Doug Herland (’94). The principals for Natalie were to develop a system by which she could assimilate as quickly and easily as possible with the other rowers.”

The first step was teaching her the proper rowing technique.

“One of the tools we used early on was to have her feel a person actually rowing on an ‘erg’ (a rowing machine) and then break down the rowing stroke into its basic component sequencing,” said Lawver.

“We worked with her to develop a rhythm,” added assistant coach Megan Carns ’97.

Next, each of the oars and boats she would be using was labeled with a Braille labeler. “This would enable her to quickly check to identify what boat she was in and what seat. It also allowed her to determine what position the blade was in,” Lawver said.

“It took a while at first to really get it down and then stay in sync with the other rowers,” McCarthy said. “But after a while it comes, when you start to really pay attention to your surroundings and start to listen to other people. And it helps when there’s someone who can make sure you’re aligned and make sure you’re on-target at first. Once you start out well it clicks.”


It’s 300 wins and counting for the pool guy

Jim Johnson recently estimated that he has coached in 500 or so meets in his 28-year tenure as the PLU head swimming coach. A few years ago he figured out that he was close to achieving his 300th dual meet victory.

Johnson achieved that milestone in November when his men’s and women’s teams both defeated Pacific in a Northwest Conference dual meet. At the end of this season, his career dual meet win-loss record stands at 306-237.

Johnson is the winningest coach in conference history and has been named the conference coach of the year four times. He has coached 60 NAIA All-Americans and 35 NAIA Academic All-Americans.

“It’s not quite the same as in football or basketball,” Johnson said. “It means I’ve been around a long time.”

Johnson said one of the biggest wins in his career was the men’s team victory over Puget Sound a couple of years ago. “There are meets, there are big meets, and then there is UPS,” he said.


Track and cross country coach hangs up the spikes

Brad Moore, who served as the head men’s and women’s cross country coach at Pacific Lutheran for 25 years, will step down from that position. He remains at PLU as a full-time faculty member in the School of Physical Education.

During Moore’s tenure, PLU's women’s cross country team won the NAIA national championship in 1988. His teams won 13 women’s and 11 men’s Northwest Conference championships and one AIAW (Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women) regional title. He was named the conference Coach of the Year seven times, the district Coach of the Year nine times, and was honored as the NAIA Women’s Cross Country Coach of the Year in 1988 and 1990. He coached a two-time NAIA national champion and 35 NAIA or NCAA Division III First Team All-Americans.

Moore also was the head men’s and women’s track and field coach at PLU from 1980-2004. The Lutes captured

10 men’s and 18 women’s conference titles, nine district and two regional championships during his tenure. Moore was named the NAIA regional men’s and women’s track Coach of the Year in 1995, was selected as the NAIA District 1 Coach of the Year nine times and was voted as the Northwest Conference Coach of the Year seven times.

Heather Kreier will serve as the interim head cross country coach. Kreier is currently serving as the head track and field coach and as a visiting instructor in the School of Physical Education. She was Moore’s assistant cross country coach for the past two seasons.

A search is under way to permanently fill the combined cross country and track and field head coach position.


attaway lutes

© Scene 2006  •  Pacific Lutheran University  •  Spring 2006

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