Rolling on a river

When Rebecca Brougher was finishing her senior year at Columbus North four years ago, she figured her athletic career was a wrap.

I’m all set, she thought. Time to focus on academics and prepare for real life.

Her basketball coach, Pat McKee, wasn’t buying it. Knowing Brougher was headed to Indiana University, he encouraged her to look into joining the rowing team.

The sales pitch went nowhere at first, so McKee attacked from a different angle.

“He realized it wasn’t going to work with me,” Brougher recalled, “so he told my mom I should go check it out. It was in her control then. 

“We went on a visit, and he was right, of course, and so was she.”

The rest is, well, what they usually say the rest is.

Brougher has become a mainstay on the first varsity eight boat for the Hoosiers, who are ranked 15th in the nation heading into the Big Ten championships next month.

Like most girls coming out of high school, Brougher had no experience with rowing before she arrived in Bloomington. Head coach Steve Peterson, though, liked her athleticism — and he said Brougher had little difficulty adjusting to a new sport.

“It really didn’t take her too, too long to figure things out and improve the way she did,” he said. “She was as close as our sport comes to being a natural.”

From a physical standpoint, Brougher said, she didn’t have much trouble adjusting. There were, however, other challenges.

“The thing that I think is mostly different is the fact that in basketball, you can talk to your other teammates while you’re playing,” Brougher explained, “but in rowing, no one in the boat talks except for the coxswain.”

Adapting to that didn’t take her too long, either.

After rowing on IU’s novice boat as a freshman, Brougher seemed primed to earn a spot on the first varsity eight as a sophomore, but an injury forced her to miss most of the year.

When she came back fully healthy as a junior, Brougher showed her full potential. She earned All-Big Ten honors while helping the Hoosiers finish third at the conference meet and 11th at the NCAA finals.

This spring, Indiana is hoping to improve upon both of those finishes, and Brougher arguably has been the team’s top rower.

In fact, Peterson said he believes that the senior could continue rowing beyond this year if she chooses to do so.

“If she wanted to push it to that next level, she would have that potential to do so,” he said.

Brougher considered the possibility of taking a graduate assistant position and continuing to train, but she instead opted to take a global sales and marketing job at Cummins.

She will, however, continue to train in her spare time and see what comes up — whether it’s a chance to pursue a national team spot or something else.

On top of all of the accolades she has earned in the water, Brougher also was honored as the winner of the Spirit of Indiana Director’s Award on Monday. The award is presented to two senior athletes who “best represent the Spirit of Indiana: 24 Sports, One Team.”

Brougher didn’t see that win coming.

“I didn’t know until they started playing a video with my face on it,” she said.

Unexpected as that presentation might have been, there’s no denying that Brougher has earned all of the praise she has received.

Peterson isn’t at all surprised by any of it.

“You’re not going to be good in this sport unless you’re willing to work hard and willing to put in the time, and that’s exactly what Becca’s strength is.”

Not bad for someone who didn’t even want to give it a shot four years ago.

Up next

The upcoming race schedule for Rebecca Brougher and the Indiana University women’s rowing team:

May 14-15: Big Ten Championships, Indianapolis

May 27-29: NCAA Championships, Sacramento, California

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Ryan O'Leary is sports editor for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at roleary@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2715.