UNIVERSITY PARK -- Erin Boxberger knew if she wanted to have a chance to get a spot on the U.S. Olympic rowing team at the 2016 Olympics, her time was now.
Last summer, the University of Notre Dame rower decided to take time off from school to focus on her aspirations of becoming an Olympian.
"I don't regret it at all," said Boxberger, 21. "It's been really interesting figuring out the dynamic of this whole system. I realized it's really like: 'one month at a time,' 'one day at a time,' really 'one practice at a time.' You never know what is going to happen at the end of the week. Your body responds very differently to training. You can't project a year in this sport."
Boxberger, along with seven other rowers on the National Rowing Team Women's Sculling Camp, are training at Nathan Benderson Park through the end of February to take one step closer to achieving their dreams.
Never miss a local story.
"It's going to be a difficult journey, just because we have really, really competitive ath
letes who have been training for years and years, but if I was going to have even a little bit of a chance for 2016, it would have had to be now," Boxberger said.
As a junior at Notre Dame, Boxberger said she watched Molly Bruggeman, who graduated from Notre Dame last May, follow her dream. Now, the two are training together at Benderson Park.
"This has always been her dream and somewhere along the line, it became mine," Boxberger said.
During their time in Sarasota, the women are staying with two Sarasota Crew host families. They begin their daily training at 6:40 a.m. at the park and end around 6:30 p.m. with a break.
For many of the rowers, they used to compete against each other on the collegiate level. Today, they are competing for a spot on the Olympic team.
"You want to better each other," Bruggeman said. "You can't day-to-day say, 'I'm going to steal her seat.' At this level, it's a lot of internal motivation as well."
All the rowers have been invited to train at the U.S. Rowing Training Center in Princeton, N.J., where the women live and train year round in "hopes of making this year's Nationals Team and, ideally, some day the Olympic team," said Jill Carlson, who graduated from Harvard University in 2012.
Carlson said the training conditions at Benderson Park have been great.
"It is obviously great to have a man-made course that's specifically for this," she said. In other courses, "you can be dealing with fishermen or crazy wind issues of sharing the course with kayaks and other sports and here, there's really nothing else to worry about."
John Wall, assistant coach for the U.S. Rowing women's team, echoed Carlson.
"It is wonderful to have a world-class training facility for winter training here in Sarasota," he said. "This group has benefited immensely from being here for winter training."
Claire Aronson, University Parkway/Sarasota reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.