DURHAM, N.C. – Before Duke rowing senior Tara Christensen enters her final season as a Blue Devil, GoDuke.com reflects back on her time on the water.
As a junior, Christensen competed in all six regattas as a member of the V4 and 2V8 boats. With the V4, Christensen helped guide the Blue Devils to capture the Carolina Cup and won the Dale England Cup race as a member of the 2V8. At the ACC Championships, the 2V8 locked in a fourth-place finish and was named to the ACC Academic Honor Roll for her efforts.
During her sophomore campaign, Christensen took part in two 3V8 races before missing the majority of the season due to injury.
Outside of rowing, Christensen was a member of the inaugural class of the Rubenstein-Bing Student-Athlete Civic Engagement (ACE) Program in the summer of 2016, where she traveled to Vietnam to teach academics, athletics and life skills to middle school children in a summer-camp setting.
GoDuke.com recently sat down with Christensen to reflect on her time at Duke, discuss goals for the upcoming season and learn what DWR means to her.
How did you know coming to Duke was the right decision for you?
TC: “I know Duke has been the right decision for me because I’ve grown immensely as a person in my four years here. The life lessons learned at Duke have shaped me as a person and have allowed me to become a stronger, more confident version of myself than I was when I started.”
What have the relationships you’ve formed here meant to you and how have they added to your experience?
TC: “My relationships at Duke have undoubtedly been the most cherished part of my experience. Duke is my second home and DWR is my second family. This team means the world to me and to get to push each other every day and be inspired by them is incredible. I had a serious injury freshman year that resulted in me not competing for most of freshman and sophomore year. Those two years were the hardest two years of my life, and the support system of this team is what got me through it. The vision of being back in a boat with these girls who inspire and support me is what drove me through physical therapy and rehab to get back to competing with my team. Having the opportunity to row with them again is a dream come true and something I will be grateful for forever.”
What will a degree from Duke mean to you?
TC: “My Duke degree will reflect the perseverance and academic challenges that I overcame over the last four years.”
What has been your proudest academic achievement throughout your three and a half years?
TC: “My French professor used a short story I wrote as an example for future classes she was teaching. This made me proud because creative writing is not an area I am super comfortable in academically, so for the paper to be recognized and well-received was exciting.”
What is one lesson Duke rowing has taught you that you will carry over to the rest of your life?
TC: “Duke, and specifically Duke rowing, has taught me that you can truly achieve anything you go after relentlessly and whole heartedly. The long-awaited return to rowing after almost two years was a trying and extremely challenging experience. There were a lot of doubts and obstacles to overcome, and a lot of days where it all seemed like it would never happen. With the support of my team, coaches and athletic training staff, I kept focused on my goal and trusted the process. It took everything I had to make my rowing goals come true, and because it took everything I had, it was the most empowering and rewarding thing I have ever done. It has made me feel fearless in the pursuit of other challenging goals and has changed my perspective of failure to merely a stepping stone in realizing success. This sense of confidence will carry over to many other aspects of life outside Duke rowing.”
What’s one team goal you all have for the season?
TC: “As a class, we want to guide this team to a win at ACCs. We are all 100% committed to this goal, not just as a class but as a team, and I’m already proud of the deliberate actions we are taking to achieve this come May. We are working as a class to shape the culture of our team to reflect this goal.”
How has your role changed from being a freshman to a senior?
TC: “I was unable to row for the second half of freshman year and had to find a vocal role on the team earlier than most of my classmates who were able to contribute to the team through physical performance. Now that I am fully able to compete with the team, I have had to rise to the pressure of also leading the team through physical leadership. This has definitely grown my confidence with the team, as I am a strong believer that actions are louder than words and enjoy being able to show my commitment and drive instead of just saying it from the sidelines. I think that my vocal leadership can be strengthened by my work ethic and what my teammates see me doing at practice every day.”
What does Duke rowing mean to you?
TC: “As I said, DWR is my second family. This team is a group of inspiring, hardworking individuals and it is an honor to work alongside each and every one of them every day. Collegiate rowing is a very unique experience requiring a lot of dedication, teamwork and trust. I know every single girl on this team has my back and is rooting for me and I feel the same towards them. As a team, we all have to be united in our pursuit of excellence and in being the best versions of ourselves, not for our own personal gain but for our team to improve. To sit down amongst such an inspiring, amazing group of women and go after our goals together every day is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity, and one that I feel grateful to have had the chance to be a part of.”
What is one of your favorite memories from being a part of the rowing family?
TC: “I have a lot of wonderful memories but one of my favorites would have to be racing at the Dale England Cup last year. As a team, we had had a rough week logistically, then weather problems at the regatta, and a lot of uncertainty about when we would race. We started the race and were down on two of the three other boats in the first half, not an ideal result when the expectation going in was to win the event. At halfway, every single girl in that boat made the intentional decision that it was time to go. We walked through both other boats in the second half, finishing the race absolutely spent but in first place and excited. It’s one of my favorite memories not because it was an amazing race- the only reason we had to lay it on so much in the second half was because our first half was far from impressive. However, it’s my favorite memory because it was a race that showed grit, determination and fearlessness. There was a strong mutual trust among our boat that every single girl was pushing with everything they had not for themselves but for each other, because they knew their teammates deserved for them to give it their all. It was a day that made me extra proud to call myself a member of DWR.”
How do you plan to lead your team this year and how will you define success?
TC: “For this year, I think a big focus for our team is culture. Defining who we are and what we do as members of Duke rowing is going to be integral to a successful spring season. Building a culture that is unified, supportive and in which everyone has the support they need to be the best version of themselves is what will allow us to achieve our more concrete goals. As a senior this year, I want to be someone who leads this team with my actions and words every single day and who people look up to. I really value having solid relationships with member of our team and want to be someone who unifies the team to achieve our goals.”
What role are you embracing this year that you haven’t in past years?
TC: “As a senior, I feel like I have a lot more responsibility for the team’s success but also a lot more power to influence it than I have in past years. I am trying to embrace more vocal leadership and put more effort into shaping our culture than I have in past years.”