Andersen quickly adapts to Minnesota’s top boat

Junior Kylie Anderson rows on the Mississippi River on Tuesday afternoon with her teammates in preparation for their trip to compete in the Clemson Invite in South Carolina.

Liam James Doyle

Junior Kylie Anderson rows on the Mississippi River on Tuesday afternoon with her teammates in preparation for their trip to compete in the Clemson Invite in South Carolina.

Jack Satzinger

Growing up, Kylie Andersen ran cross country, track and was an avid skier. When she came to the University of Minnesota in 2012, the lifelong athlete rowed competitively for the first time. 
 
Since then, Andersen has steadily risen through the Gophers’ ranks, and now she’s a top contributor on the team. 
 
“It’s a huge learning curve because you get put in with people who have been doing it for six or so years,” Andersen said. “Their technique is a lot above yours, but you get to sit behind them and learn directly from them, and so you pick up stuff really quickly.” 
 
Andersen spent her freshman season competing on the Gophers’ novice team. The next year she moved up to the second varsity eight. But when first varsity eight mainstays like Katherine Windsor left the team last May, Andersen filled the void. 
 
Head coach Wendy Davis said plenty of athletes join the team with limited rowing experience. In addition to Andersen, Lisa Weeks, Madison Koch, Sara Scarbro and
 
Jessica Flakne all competed at the novice level as freshmen. But now, they’re on the first varsity eight — Minnesota’s top boat. 
 
“We’re really young in terms of our knowledge of how to race,” Davis said. “We are still on this really steep trajectory of learning.” 
 
Andersen said her experience as a high school athlete helped her understand the work required to be on a college team.
 
The Chanhassen native was already used to grueling workouts, and she just needed to nail down rowing technique. 
 
Though she faced an uphill battle, her attention to detail has helped her develop. 
 
“She’s very scientifically oriented, and so she’s very methodical in what she needs to do,” senior Lynn Hodnett said. “Once she knows how to fix it, that’s what she works on. … Kylie is focusing on something she needs to fix all the time, and that makes me want to have her in my boat every day because I can rely on her.” 
 
Hodnett said Andersen is attentive in practice and listens to the advice Davis gives her. On top of that, first varsity eight coxswain Taylor Gainey said Andersen is one of the team’s rowers who asks the most questions.
 
“I think she takes it all in, all the time, every single day,” Gainey said. “She matches with people that have had more rowing experience — [she] is constantly working to make those improvements.” 
 
Andersen’s desire to improve has been important for the Gophers this year, who have shown progress since their disappointing 2014 season. She occupies the important bow pair position, where she’s one of two rowers situated at the front of the boat. 
 
“That’s a tough spot for her to be in because it affects the balance of the boat so much, and it’s so important,” Gainey said. “If one [bow rower] is stronger than the other, it can kind of have an effect on the boat going in a straight line.”
 
Despite the tough position, Andersen continues to show improvement. 
 
But that comes as no surprise to teammates who have seen her go from an inexperienced freshman to a strong junior. 
 
“She’s definitely embraced her place in bow pair,” Hodnett said. “She’s just very focused.”