By Rachel Frey
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Texas Rowing senior Felicia Izaguirre-Werner has quietly helped lead the Longhorns since she first stepped on campus, according to assistant coach Melissa Perrone.
“When she came to the Forty Acres as a freshman, she was part of a large class, and we saw the tide change with the success of the team,” Perrone said. “I saw right off the bat that she was not the most vocal, but she led by example. She has been bow seat in the first varsity eight for the past three seasons, and now going into her fourth season.”
The senior does more than just lead her teammates on the water. She is an active part of the Student-Athlete Advisory Council, and has encouraged her team to organize clothing drives for the Austin Women’s Shelter and volunteer with children after practice.
“It isn’t so much about being a leader, it is more about being the person who can show up, set the example and get people to do things,” Izaguirre-Werner said. “I think it is because I am so proactive, such as getting people to do community service, to step up their game and to get excited. I think that is why they think of me as a leader.”
The senior believes that volunteering has helped develop the leadership skills of her teammates, as well as prepare them to be role models to others. Perrone has seen the benefits of Izaguirre-Werner’s actions on the team.
“You can be a tough athlete and be a role model,” Perrone said, “but if you cannot communicate that, it is not going to be absorbed. People will not benefit from you. The team definitely benefits from her, and she is going to be a tough loss after this season.”
With just more than four months left for her to row on the Longhorns crew, she is focused on a NCAA Championship berth, more than her impending graduation.
“There are a lot of decisions I have been trying to put off,” Izaguirre-Werner said. “I don’t want to stress myself out, I want to enjoy my last semester. My goals now are to go to NCAAs, make the final, have an awesome semester, and finish everything solid.”
Her current goals are much different from when she started first started rowing during her freshman year of high school. Then, she saw it as a way to cross train for her competitive figure skating, but now, her experience on the ice has helped her become a stronger presence on the water.
“I remember head coach Carie Graves realizing ‘she was such a great figure skater, that is probably why she has such great body awareness and sense of balance,’” Perrone said.
Perrone went on to say Izaguirre-Werner has an ability to adjust the way she rows to offset the balance of a boat to correct it, which is one reason why her teammates enjoy rowing with her.
“Even if she is not on paper the strongest athlete out there, she enables every other athlete in the boat with her to be stronger,” Perrone said. “During recruitment, she sent me a picture of herself doing a handstand in the water. Her sense of balance and her body awareness has helped her overcome her height.”
Izaguirre-Werner admits she is relatively short for a rower. At 5-foot-7, she says she usually wears her hair on top of her head, so that she looks the same height as her teammates in pictures.
“I’m sure she had some struggles with people taking one look (at her height) and saying no, and that is tough,” Perrone said. “That is probably what makes her tough. You have to overcome these obstacles and prove people wrong.”
Izaguirre-Werner has definitely excelled so far during her rowing career. She helped Texas earn two conference championships last season (Big 12 and Conference USA), and has competed at the CamAmMex Regatta, English Henley and Canadian Henley.
She represented her province of Ontario in the Canadian Games in 2009, where she helped her Ontario crew to a victory over British Columbia in one of the tightest races in which she says she has ever competed. However, her least favorite thing about rowing in her home country is practicing on machines in the winter, since the lakes freeze over.
“[The fact that the water does not freeze over] was the biggest selling point for me about Texas,” Izaguirre-Werner said. “Our assistant coach said, ‘Well Felicia, you know the water never freezes.’ And I thought about how that would cut down my indoor season significantly, so I was sold.”
The climate change from Canada to Central Texas proved to be a tough adjustment for her and the other Canadian rowers. She recalled their first August in Austin, when they would run from building to building to get out of the heat as quickly as possible. She also says that the Texas pride is much different than from what she expected.
“One thing that is very different in Texas is how much pride people have in everything,” Izaguirre-Werner said. “I really like that so many people feel passionate about something, and it makes me excited when people are excited about being a Longhorn.
“It makes me realize that I am privileged to be here, to be bleeding burnt orange, to have that Longhorn on my shirt everyday, and to be able to represent the Texas logo across the country.”