by Helen Tompkins

“When I first started I was horrifically unathletic,” said Michelle Sechser. “I couldn’t even do the warm-up run.”

In high school at Capital Crew, Head Coach Chris Manibusan saw something special in Sechser and worked to turn her raw material into speed. Sechser eventually pulled a 7:16 on a 2K erg test as a junior and won a National Championship in the pair and four, and then made the Junior National Team Selection Camp. On paper Sechser was fast enough for a scholarship to a top rowing program, but many programs turned her down because of her height. At 5’6”, many college coaches could not see Sechser’s potential to later produce a sub seven minute 2k score and the current 6k World Record of 22:02.2.

Kevin Harris, the head coach at Tulsa University, coached Sechser’s older sister at the USRowing Junior Development Camp and gave her a call. Secher was initially cold on the idea of moving to Oklahoma, but when larger schools didn’t offer Sechser a scholarship she signed up for an official visit at TU. Having already visited Virginia and Clemson, she fell in love with Tulsa and canceled the rest of her visits. Sechser was sold.

For Sechser there was a trade off with going to a small school. “Chances are you’re not going to walk away with that championship ring on your finger. That was a difficult pill to swallow.”

At Tulsa, Sechser received a high degree of personal development and mentorship. Coach Harris pushed the idea of rowing for the US National Team, an idea that scared her. As a junior in college, Sechser attended Crash B’s and pulled a 7:17 2k and was noticed by the US Under-23 Women’s Lightweight Coach, Josh Adams. That summer Adams invited Sechser to the US U-23 Quad Camp. The thought of rowing for the National Team still made Sechser very nervous, and instead she rowed at Vesper Boat Club instead.

Coach Harris didn’t give up on the National Team idea and was constantly in her ear about it. After graduation in 2010, Sechser went to the US Quad Camp but did not make the team. Rowing for Vesper in summer 2011, Sechser made the Pan American Games squad and earned two Bronze metals. In 2012 Sechser made the Lightweight Quad, a non-Olympic event, and the crew took 4th at the World Championships. In 2013, Sechser came 7th at the World Championships in the Lightweight Single. Most recently, Sechser and her doubles partner, Devery Karz, won National Selection Regatta II, qualifying them to be the US Double, the only lightweight Olympic event for women.

Harris still keeps in touch, texting Sechser while at National Selection Regatta II just a few weeks ago. When lining up for the final, Harris said, “go out there and play.” He was referring to a motivational saying from college that went “the best rowers are the ones who go out there and play like a two year old in a mud puddle.”

Sechser will race in the World Cup Regatta II starting June 17th. They must place in the top four to qualify as the US double for the World Championships in August.

Michelle Sechser Resume:
7th – Lightweight Single – 2013 World Championships
4th – Lightweight Quadruple Sculls – 2012 World Championships
3rd – Lightweight Double – 2011 Pan Am Games
3rd – Lightweight Quadruple Sculls – 2011 Pan Am Games

Profile: Michelle Sechser, National Team Lightweight
US National Team Rower Michelle Sechser is profiled.
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