Former area preps find home on Iowa rowing team

Amelia Koehn, Megan Sprengeler love being part of Hawkeye 'team'

The University of Iowa rowing team practices on the Iowa River in Iowa City last March. (The Gazette)
The University of Iowa rowing team practices on the Iowa River in Iowa City last March. (The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Standing off Dubuque Street looking onto the Iowa River, passers-by can see the Iowa women’s rowing team gracefully gliding across the water.

The sun’s reflection lights up their oars as each woman rows as one.

But step a little closer and you’ll see these women are sweaty, determined and exhausted.

“Rowing is a lot like a duck,” Iowa Coach Andrew Carter said. “It looks very graceful, but when it’s mad, we take it out underneath the water.”

Women’s rowing is a sport that tends to fly under the radar at Iowa and in the Midwest.

So does the uniqueness of the rowers.

Two Eastern Iowa women didn’t grow up around sport, but found something special in the boat.

“I never thought I’d become a rower until I went to the first practice,” senior Amelia Koehn said in her online bio. “I immediately fell in love with the sport.”

A former cheerleader and runner at English Valleys High School in North English, Koehn likes rowing because “everyone must work as a team to move the boat fast while keeping the boat stable. It is such a rush, not to mention exciting.”

Megan Sprengeler, a junior from Walford and a former runner and volleyball player at Cedar Rapids Prairie, started her collegiate career as a volleyball player at North Dakota. But she quickly realized she was missing something. She started power lifting in high school and her coaches “encouraged me to consider rowing post high school.

“They felt it would continue to challenge me both physically and mentally,” she said in her bio.

They find inspiration in unique ways.

Koehn gets her motivation from her grandfather, who was a POW in the Korean War. She remembers him telling her to “keep her head down and always work hard.”


“He always made sure his comrades were safe and I want to make sure I’m taking care of my teammates,” Koehn said.

Sprengeler draws her inspiration from her teammates, especially when days get tough.

“I take things in small strides, one stroke at a time,” she said.

Carter is inspired by the “sisterhood” all the Hawkeyes have created.

“This is the best collection of young people that I have been associated with,” he said. “They’ve been cut from the cloth any coach would kill for.”

The individualism within the team is strong, but the team bond is unbreakable.

“I don’t think I will be able to push myself as much I am now, without them,” Koehn said.

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