The Gophers women’s rowing team has used many rowers in its top boat since 2008.
But senior Cassie Drozynski has been one of the mainstays on the top boat, the first varsity eight.
Drozynski, a two-time all-Big Ten honoree, started rowing on the first varsity eight during the 2008-09 season. After redshirting last season to take pre-physical therapy courses, she returned to the team’s top crew this fall.
She hasn’t missed a stroke.
“She’s solid physically, she’s solid mentally, she’s solid emotionally,” head coach Wendy Davis said. “It’s the complete package this year.”
Davis said Drozynski was one of the weaker rowers on the top boat her freshman season. As Drozynski became more comfortable on the top boat, she performed better. She earned second-team All-Big Ten honors as a sophomore and first-team All-Big Ten honors as a junior.
Drozynski redshirted last season but practiced with the team. She returned to the lineup last fall and won an event at the Head of the Rock Regatta in October.
But her return didn’t go as planned.
Drozynski was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in October. The disease causes inflammation of the joints and is rare in young people.
Drozynski went on medication and continued to compete, but she said the disease made rowing painful. She found a good medication in December and said she has felt better since then.
Drozynski said she hasn’t had any discomfort this spring. Her crew has won Big Ten Boat of the Week honors twice and has won all four of its races this spring.
Her boat mates said that their success starts with Drozynski.
“Everything she does, she cares about the team,” said senior Becky Kinchen, her roommate and boat mate. “The majority of our conversations, even off the water, are about how can we get better, how can she help the team and how she’s interacting with the team.”
Senior Rachel Sartor said Drozynski is the team’s most well-rounded rower and is constantly looking to improve.
“Sometimes I think she takes it too much to heart, but I think that makes her a good athlete,” Sartor said.
While she is a focused competitor on the water, Drozynski is more outgoing on land. Her teammates said she is known for her “Cassie-isms,” such as adding sound effects to words.
“She has a really sweet sense of humor,” Davis said. “She’s just really quick to pick up on anything that anyone is saying that’s funny. It just helps with the atmosphere on the team.”
Drozynski’s boat has never finished higher than fifth at the Big Ten championships. But with six seniors on the top boat, Drozynski said that could change this season.
“It’s a really, really dynamic, aggressive boat this year,” she said. “It doesn’t feel like any other [first varsity boat] that we’ve had.”