Senior to move from boats to planes

Four-year varsity rower Becky Kinchen will begin working at Boeing in July.

Minnesota rower Becky Kinchen at the Boathouse on Monday, April 29, 2013. Kinchen, a mechanical engineering major, will start a job at Boeing in the summer.

Ichigo Takikawa

Minnesota rower Becky Kinchen at the Boathouse on Monday, April 29, 2013. Kinchen, a mechanical engineering major, will start a job at Boeing in the summer.

Nate Gotlieb

As a sophomore, rower Becky Kinchen had to build a robot as part of her Introduction to Engineering class.

So naturally, she created a “row-bot.”

Kinchen, a mechanical engineering senior, built a model rowboat that could trip a sensor and raise and lower a drawbridge.

“It didn’t work as perfectly as I would have liked it to,” said Kinchen, who will finish her engineering degree and Gophers’ rowing career later this month.

“But it really showed me how to plan out a project by myself and troubleshoot it and then present it, even if I felt there were flaws in it.”

Kinchen will begin working at Boeing as a mechanical designer in July. But before that, she and the Gophers’ varsity rowing team will try to improve off three straight fifth-place finishes at the Big Ten championships.

With six seniors on the top varsity eight boat, Kinchen said there is a sense of urgency this season.

“I think this year, more so than any other year, we’re way more competitive,” she said.

Kinchen has been on the Gophers’ varsity team since her freshman year, all the while pursuing a mechanical engineering degree.

It hasn’t been easy.

As a freshman, Kinchen was enrolled in the College of Science and Engineering’s honors program in addition to rowing on the varsity team. She soon realized she had taken on too much and dropped the honors program after her freshman year.

On the water, she discovered that she had a lot to learn.

“I thought I was better than I actually was,” Kinchen said, adding that she has learned how to make changes in her stroke since then.

Head coach Wendy Davis said as Kinchen learned the team’s system, she improved as a rower. She said Kinchen was quiet as an underclassman but became more vocal as a junior.

Kinchen made the top varsity eight boat as a junior and has remained on the boat since.

Off the water, Kinchen has maintained a high GPA, earning Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association scholar-athlete honors as a sophomore and junior. The honors are given to athletes with a GPA above 3.5.

Kinchen redshirted in fall 2012 while taking most of her remaining engineering courses — including her senior design course. She said she had lab reports due almost every week.

“She maybe got six hours of sleep a night and then would come down and kill it at the boat house,” said senior rower Cassie Drozynski, Kinchen’s roommate and boat mate. “She didn’t sleep. She didn’t really eat a whole lot. She was just go, go, go.”

Enrolled in eight credits this semester, Kinchen said she is getting more sleep than ever. She will graduate a week from Friday with a GPA around 3.5, she said.

“I’m really happy that I was able to get through college with the grades that I did and still rowing,” Kinchen said. “I feel like I did what I wanted to do.”