'U' women's rowing pair nabs gold in pairs final in Belarus

Jake Fromm/Daily
Michigan rowers Ashely Kroll (rear) and Felice Mueller row in the women's pair finals at the World Rowing Under 23 Championships in Brest, Belarus on Saturday, July 24, 2010. The pair won gold in the 2000 meter race with a time of 7:14.07. Buy this photo

For the Daily
Published July 25, 2010

BREST, Belarus — As Ashley Kroll and Felice Mueller sat poised in their boat waiting to race in the Under-23 World Championships on Saturday, they were surrounded by red, white and blue. One color, however, stood out from the rest — maize.

Kroll and Mueller — both members of the Michigan rowing team — passed the finish line in seven minutes and fourteen seconds, clinching gold in a world-record-setting victory.

The U. S. U-23 National Team is comprised of athletes from around the country, all of them current or former collegiate rowers.

And in many cases, this puts former rivals not only on the same team but also, on occasion, in the same boat. For Mueller, an Art and Design junior at the University, learning to think in terms of working with – and not against – the other National Team rowers was not an easy process.

Accepting the paradigm shift “was actually kind of hard, but it was awesome.”

Kroll added, “You look at them like they’re enemies, until you get in a boat with them. When you come together ... we’re just a big, huge team.”

The process is more familiar to Kroll, an LSA senior who plans to graduate at the end of the fall semester. Unlike Mueller, who raced for the first time with the National Team in Belarus, Kroll competed with the team last year and won the silver medal.

For the pair, being surrounded by elite athletes all vying for a limited number of team positions is a humbling experience. Referring to the new rowers on the team, Kroll said that “especially this year, the speed that they brought in, it’s insane.”

Because Kroll and Mueller rowed together at Michigan, they've had the advantage of being comfortable with each other from the beginning of training.

“We’re lucky because we’re in the same school, have the same coach, know the same rowing technique,” Kroll said.

Being a part of a fairly successful athletic community has not made the women jaded, though. Kroll said that the opportunity to “race out of the states … is amazing.”

“If you think you’re good, or act like you’re the best, it doesn’t do you any good,” Kroll said. “You just have to be humble about it and pull really hard, put your head down and pull as hard as you can.”

After winning the World Championships, both Kroll and Mueller plan to continue rowing.

Kroll will be training with the U.S. National Team in the fall as Mueller will continue rowing and attending classes at Michigan when class starts in September.

While she is proud to race for the National Team, Mueller represents her school with equal fervor.

“I love Michigan so much,” she said. “I always love racing for them.”