Megan Hinkle’s dreams are as broad and as deep as the waters her boat cuts through on a daily basis.
“I would definitely like to go to the Olympics some day,” Hinkle said. “I don’t know if I’ll be ready in 2020, but I’d definitely like to go at some point.”
Hinkle, a Miami County native, Troy Christian High School graduate and sophomore rower at the University of Michigan, took a big step toward that ultimate goal last month when she competed as a member of the United States Rowing U23 national team at the U23 world championships in Pozan, Poland. Being selected to represent her country as a member of the U23 national team keeps Hinkle on pace to eventually compete for bigger and better things, potentially as a member of the U.S. Olympic team.
“It definitely helps a lot, because that means you are already in the system,” Hinkle said. “That’s going to help me later on, because the coaches can get to know you and know what kind of rower you are and if you are a hard worker. Being in it right now is definitely going to help me later.”
Hinkle and her three teammates finished sixth overall on Lake Malta in central Poland. While it wasn’t the finish Hinkle had been hoping for, she said it was a valuable experience for her.
“It was really fun,” she said. “I was kind of nervous, because I had never been out of the country before, but it was exciting to see a different country. I had hoped we would do better, but we gave it our best shot. We had only been in the boat together for about three or four weeks and I feel like we did the best we could. I was proud of our effort.”
Hinkle began competing for the Greater Dayton Rowing Association while still in high school. She was identified early on as one of the top young rowers in the nation and earned a scholarship to the University of Michigan. She initially tried out for the U23 national team last November. In March, she found out she was one of two University of Michigan rowers selected to participate in the June selection camp.
“It was kind of unreal when I found out,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting to be selected. They actually sent the invitation late, and I didn’t think I had made it. I was kind of disappointed, but I was like, “Okay, I’ll try again next year.’”
Being invited to the selection camp, however, was only the beginning of the process; she still had to earn her way onto the actual U23 team. On June 3, Hinkle traveled to Princeton, N.J. for the camp. Her time in New Jersey consisted of four-hour daily practices as she tried to earn a spot in a boat. Eventually, there were two rowers left competing for a final spot on the team. Hinkle was selected to be a part of the quadruple sculls.
“They had narrowed it down to two rowers for the final spot in the boat — and I was one of them,” Hinkle said. “I was really excited, because it was such a huge opportunity. Again, I didn’t think I was going to get it when they only had one spot left. They had us race and it was pretty close, but I beat her by about 1.4 seconds.”
Hinkle returned home from Poland last week and will spend some time at home before returning to Michigan for her sophomore year.
She had a successful freshman campaign for the Wolverines.
Hinkle made her varsity debut March 17-18, at the Louisville Cardinal Invitational. She was a member of the 2V8 boat that won all three of its races, defeating Wisconsin, Minnesota, Yale and Virginia, among others.
She helped her 1V8 boat to a second-place finish at the Princeton’s Class of 1987 Cup Regatta. Her team rowed to a silver medal finish at the Big Ten Championships in May and the 2V8 boat finished fourth nationally at the NCAA Championships at the end of May.
“It was definitely a lot of fun,” Hinkle said of her freshman year at Michigan. “We got to go to the NCAAs, which was my goal.”
Hinkle has accomplished a number of her rowing goals of late — with one big one still looming on the horizon.
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong