Senior Spring: Katie Erdos exhibits leadership throughout career as coxswain

by Boyd Bragg and Will Ennis | 5/26/20 2:05am

katie_erdos_rowing
Source: Courtesy of Katie Erdos

Katie Erdos ’20 has been a leader since her first day on the Big Green women’s crew team, serving as coxswain for the Varsity 8 for the duration of her career.

“As a coxswain, you kind of have to step up and be a leader and cox in the boat,” Erdos said. “So I think my freshman year was definitely a transition period, and I was definitely intimidated at first.”

Erdos parlayed that early leadership position into a successful career with the Big Green. She was elected co-captain for both her junior and senior seasons and earned the team’s Richard W. Grossman Coxswains’ Award as a junior. In her freshman year, she led her boat to victory in the Parents’ Cup against Cornell University, a team that the Big Green hadn’t defeated since 2014, and followed that by winning the Parents’ Cup the next two years as well. She also coxed her boat to a second-place finish in the 2018 Ivy Round Robin.

The Big Green got off to a slow start this season with disappointing finishes at the first two races of the season. Despite these results, Erdos was hopeful about the remainder of her senior season.

“I think even though the results weren't there, it was kind of another point where we could regroup and be like, ‘OK, how do we want to move forward from this and how do we want to define the rest of our season and the rest of our year moving forward?’” Erdos said.

The remainder of the rowing season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving Erdos and the Big Green without the opportunity to finish the spring season.

“I think the initial reaction was mostly just shock and disappointment, especially in the senior class and realizing this was our last season,” Erdos said. “And then I think as the days went on, that shock and disappointment definitely was still there, but it turned to gratitude and being thankful for everything that we did get to do and our time.”

Erdos’s career as a coxswain started in high school, where she followed in the footsteps of her older sister, a coxswain at the same school. She said that unlike some coxswains, she never started as a rower — she fell in love with coxing from the beginning.

“The role of coxing really hooked me in that you were trying to be the best athlete you could be yourself,” Erdos said. “But also pushing other people on your team and trying to get the best out of them.”

As Erdos reached her sophomore and junior years of high school, she decided that she wanted to pursue rowing in college and began to look at schools. She said that her final decision came down to meeting the teams. Her visit to Dartmouth, along with an opportunity to have a lasting impact on the program, sealed the Big Green as her top choice.

“I really kind of just bonded when I met the Dartmouth team, and what they had going on seemed like such a great culture and a culture I was excited to join,” Erdos said. “And I also was really drawn to the fact that it was a team that was building, and I could hopefully contribute something to that build and leave my mark and join this team that was trying to move up and do something special.”

There were both positive and negative aspects of her initial transition to college rowing, according to Erdos. She highlighted Dartmouth’s location as one of the immediate benefits.

“The biggest difference that happened right off the bat was definitely the Connecticut River, which is amazing,” she said. “My high school program rowed on a tiny pond that was barely 1,500 meters, which is not even the length of a typical race.”

In terms of the transition to the team, though, Erdos described being intimidated at first, having to lead a boat of mostly veteran rowers. 

“What I tried to keep reminding myself was I was there for a reason,” Erdos said. “And just rowing is rowing and at the end of the day, we're all trying to go faster. So if I can just do my job and help the rowers do their job to do that, then they're not going to get mad at me for that.”

Rebecca Thomson ’20, a member of Erdos’s Varsity 8 boat, highlighted Erdos’s leadership from the start of her time at Dartmouth, as well as her growth into that role over the years.

“From freshman year, she showed incredible leadership and definitely brought our class together,” Thomson said. “Seeing her, one, be a leader from the beginning, but also grow over the past couple years has really been incredible and admirable.”

Erdos cited confidence as the most fundamental aspect of her approach to coxing.

“I think something that's really important as a coxswain is to be confident, not to the point where you're arrogant, but to be confident about what you're doing in the boat and to earn the respect and trust of your rowers,” Erdos said. “That helps them believe that you believe in what you're doing, believe in themselves [and] get the best out of themselves.”

Erdos’s teammate of two years Fiona Cronin ’22 had high praise for Erdos.

“I really think [Erdos] is one of those people that commands respect, any given day on any given practice,” Cronin said. “If you are in the boat with her, you want to do your absolute best for no other reason then doing it for her.”

After the COVID-19 pandemic cut the Big Green’s season short, Erdos made sure to celebrate her and the team’s seniors’ accomplishments.

“It's kind of hard to put into words, hard to describe all the things I've gained,” Erdos said. “I'm so, so grateful to be a part of that community and have gained that through rowing. And I think rowing's given me confidence, given me a work ethic, showed me how to persevere in tough times, celebrate the good times and then, obviously this past season, learn how to deal with disappointment.”

Following graduation, Erdos plans to take a year or two off from formal education before attending medical school. She plans to work in a research lab during the upcoming year.

“It's going to be a big, big hole, I think, for the team. Even though we are such a small class, I think she, in particular, kind of just leads the team,” Thomson said. “There are going to be people who are going to need to really step up, and I don't know if any one person can do it because [Erdos] did so much.”

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