Pulling her weight

Amanda Pollard

Senior co-captain of the rowing team Ashley Loucks never dreamed that being intrigued by a sport she saw in the 2004 Olympics would carry her throughout college and ultimately change her life.

Growing up in Rohnert Park, Loucks began participating in sports at a young age.

During high school, Loucks excelled in basketball and her collegiate path seemed clear.

However, at freshman orientation, she was approached by the women’s rowing coach and was asked to check the team out.

“I never heard about rowing until the 2004 Olympics. I was intrigued and e-mailed the coach about possible workouts. It really didn’t go anywhere and I was thinking I would try out for basketball, until the coach approached me at orientation,” Loucks said.

Loucks became interested in the sport and was looking for something new. However, the decision to stray from a sport in which she had excelled at in high school was not easy.

“The morning of basketball tryouts was the same as rowing tryouts,” Loucks said. “A girl from the dorms approached me in the bathroom and asked me to go with her to basketball tryouts. I was so torn between going to rowing or basketball. I’m glad I chose rowing, it changed my life.”

Despite the path Loucks chose, her parents’ support has been a constant.

Growing up as an only child and grandchild, Loucks received all the attention from both sides of the family.

“My whole family is very close and my grandparents never missed a game, rain or shine. My great-grandma, who is 84, still comes out to all my races. There was always a huge support system,” Loucks said.

Participating in women’s rowing has not only given Loucks the opportunity to be on a full-ride scholarship, but the opportunity to grow as a person and become a leader as well.

“I’ve always felt like I was a silent leader. I want to do my best and have people follow suit. Our teammates vote us captain and I’m so glad they think I can lead them,” Loucks said.

Her teammates feel the team would not have reached where it is now, and would not be the same without Loucks.

Close friend and teammate Alicia Tarkenton feels that without Loucks the team would not be as smooth and the girls would not work so well together.

“I’m so afraid of her leaving. I don’t know what it will be like. She is such a motivation with her positive attitude. She is always encouraging us to not worry about conflicts and to just enjoy this while it’s lasting,” Tarkenton said.

In addition to being a positive constant for her team, Loucks has dreams to one day open a facility to better the physical condition of people.

Loucks works as a personal trainer at 24 Hour Fitness and says she most enjoys giving people back their confidence.

“When women come in feeling terrible about themselves, and I can work with them and send them away feeling wonderful; it’s a great feeling,” Loucks said.

The decision to change her major from kinesiology to business marketing rests upon the belief that, as she is receiving training on physical therapy outside of school, she should be attaining training in the business areas in school.

“I want to open a small facility where people can come if they aren’t comfortable going to the gym right away. I don’t see myself being a nine-to-five person; I like interacting with people,” Loucks said.

Her desire for human interaction not only helps on the water but in the community as well.

Tarkenton said Loucks has been organizing a lot of volunteer work for the team lately and seems to really enjoy it.

“It’s a really important aspect of leadership, getting everyone excited about helping people,” Tarkenton said.

Loucks said the idea for community service came during the winter months when the team didn’t have much to do during the days when the weather was bad.

Loucks began gathering clothes and food from grocery stores, family and friends in hopes of making baskets to distribute to the homeless.

“We don’t want to just donate stuff, we want to do things first hand. We want to give back to the community,” Loucks said.

In addition, the team worked with Recreational Equipment Incorporated (REI) and planted trees in the Folsom area. Plans have also been in the works for volunteer work at a cancer center.

“I want to take advantage of the numbers and resources we have. A lot of the girls are getting involved too and coming up with ideas. This has really opened my eyes,” Loucks said.

Teammates feel Loucks’ take-charge attitude is precisely what makes her such an asset to the team.

Fellow co-captain Aimee Chenard said Loucks has been pouring a lot of time and energy into the team, and it is paying off.

“She really helped us out with weights over break. She came up with a weight plan to use over winter training so the girls could come in on their own time and work,” Chenard said.

Loucks is not only the positive force on the team, but a mediator and motivation for her teammates.

“She keeps an upbeat attitude no matter what and the girls really appreciate that,” Chenard said.

“I have no idea what the team will be like without her. Every time we workout and get on the water, she gives it her best. She never slacks off. It makes us work harder,” Tarkenton said.

Loucks feels a key aspect in the team’s camaraderie is open communication. She often encourages the girls to get problems out before they have time to become bigger than they are.

“We confront the issue right away. I want them to feel comfortable and confident that it will be kept between us,” Loucks said.

The admiration her teammates feel for her is returned 10-fold by Loucks who feels her life has been forever changed by a group of girls.

“Hopefully I impact their lives as much as they impact mine. It’s so awesome to have 60 best friends you see every morning,” Loucks said.

Amanda Pollard can be reached at [email protected]