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Taylor Schubert: Off into the Michigan blue

Former Saugus High volleyball player has found a new calling with Michigan’s rowing team

Posted: May 12, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 12, 2012 1:55 a.m.
University of Michigan sophomore and Saugus High graduate Taylor Schubert competes with the Second Varsity Eight boat at an event at Belleville Lake, Mich. on April 14. University of Michigan sophomore and Saugus High graduate Taylor Schubert competes with the Second Varsity Eight boat at an event at Belleville Lake, Mich. on April 14.
University of Michigan sophomore and Saugus High graduate Taylor Schubert competes with the Second Varsity Eight boat at an event at Belleville Lake, Mich. on April 14.

Taylor Schubert has always been an athlete.

One might have considered her a dry land athlete with sports like volleyball, soccer or track and field included in her repertoire.

Somewhere along the line, the Saugus High graduate made an about face with her athletic ventures.

As Schubert describes it, the idea of trying out for the University of Michigan women’s rowing team kind of fell into her lap.

“I figure I like sports, I wanted to stay in shape through college, so I figured I would try it out and it’s worked out so far,” Schubert says.

To say it’s worked out for her might be an understatement.

The 20-year-old Michigan sophomore was once a standout volleyball player at Saugus High, earning All-Santa Clarita Valley second-team honors her senior year in 2008-09.

Three years later and more than 2,200 miles away, she isn’t spending her days anywhere near a volleyball court.

Schubert is nearing the end of her second season as a walk-on member of the school’s rowing team, and she’s already elevated to one of the team’s top rowers.

“She’s definitely risen through the ranks faster than most people do and with a lot of speed and strength, and most of all tenacity and determination,” says Annie Knill, Michigan’s assistant rowing coach who has worked closely with Schubert during her development.

Given her natural athletic ability, the sport has come naturally to her.

Yet still, it’s not exactly what she pictured herself doing in college.

She was offered the chance to continue her volleyball career at Southern Connecticut State University and a few other small schools in California.

When the acceptance letter came from Michigan, her dream school, the options had to be weighed.

“It was a hard decision because I wanted to play volleyball and wanted to play a sport and I knew I would love it,”
Schubert says. “But the schools that were recruiting me weren’t the type of schools that I felt like would really fit me.”
Ultimately, she knew her future was in Ann Arbor, Mich.

It was a city and a campus she fell in love with at a young age when she used to travel to the area frequently to visit relatives.

Schubert had her sights set on Michigan long before volleyball, or any other sport, even entered the picture.

“I always knew she set her mind on things and made sure that she was going to do some kind of sport,” says Schubert’s mom, Liza. “I knew she was. But rowing? I never thought in a millions years.”

Like many athletes on the school’s rowing team, Schubert was targeted by the program instantly upon arriving on campus.

Rowing isn’t a common sport carried by high schools, particularly on the West Coast, which means schools like Michigan have to look elsewhere to fill out their rowing rosters.

“The college coaches basically pluck them off campus during Welcome Week and say, ‘Hey, you’re big and strong, do you want to come and row with us?” Knill says.

Taylor’s answer was a quick yes.

She entered a tryout along with more than 150 women, which eventually was cut down to 46 varsity rowers and another 40-or-so members of the novice team.

As a freshman, Taylor made the novice squad and raced for one of the team’s novice boats.

In competitions, each team races with its top two boats, known as the Varsity Eight and the Second Varsity Eight, followed by one or more Novice Eight boats, depending on the size of the team.

Each boat is made up of eight rowers and a coxswain, whose duty it is to lead and navigate.

Around the end of February earlier this year, Taylor had a breakthrough.

She surprised her coaches with a stellar showing in a team tryout, earning a spot on the Second Varsity Eight.

“Taylor certainly has the physical makeup to be a great rower,” Knill says. “She’s a very tall athlete, very strong, very fit. She’s got a very long stroke and she’s certainly got the opportunity to go places in the sport.”

Taylor’s promotion was decided mostly based on her much-improved fitness level.

The long hours and grueling practices had finally paid off for her.

“I don’t think she’d be happy if she wasn’t working hard at something in life,” Liza says.

Michigan ranks fifth in the nation in the latest NCAA Division I women’s rowing coaches poll.

On May 1, Taylor’s crew was named the co-Big Ten Conference Boat of the Week after a winning performance at a competition in Columbus, Ohio the previous weekend.

Schubert and her teammates are undefeated in nine races this season as the Second Varsity Eight.

That includes victories over teams like No. 9 Yale University and No. 12 Michigan State.

Michigan heads to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championships this weekend. The NCAA Championships begin a few weeks later on May 25.

“I just think when I get up to the starting line, I want to win,” Taylor says. “I don’t really care who’s next to me.”

Though she is still a walk-on, Taylor can earn her way into some scholarship money if she keeps climbing up the ranks.

Michigan has 20 total women’s rowing scholarships to dole out as they please, Knill said, and they are given based on performance.

That’s not why Taylor rows though. It never was.

For her, as long as she’s wearing Michigan maize and blue, she’s happy.

“I’ve always loved it here,” she says. “I visited the campus when I was younger and just fell in love with it. I knew from a young age that I’ve always wanted to come here.”



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