Driven, Passionate and Talented

How NCI’s newest hire excels at leading her team to success both on the water and in the office!

Learn more about all the talented team players at NCI!

A Brief History of Rowing

Do you row? Dating back to the 15th century BC Egypt where the first non-transportation reference was made to the sport in an Egyptian funeral carving, rowing has enjoyed a long and distinctive reputation through history (1). Mentioned by Virgil as part of the funeral games for Aeneas, and a feature of regatta races during the Middle Ages in which the Italian Carnevale pitted the nation’s best rowers against one another (1), rowing has long been a hallmark of important events and a symbol of strength, power and grace. Modern rowing competitions began emerging later in history when taxi operators offering services across the Thames River in London would compete with each other for prize money put up by London’s guilds, and the first recorded race in the US took place in the New York harbor in 1756 (1). Since then, rowing has been a hallmark sport on U.S. college campuses and is considered one of the oldest intercollegiate sports in America (1).

Think football is popular? 80 years ago, that was simply not the case. Beginning with a challenge between Yale and Harvard and Yale in 1852 which marked the first intercollegiate boat race, rowing launched onto the scene and was the most prevalent and popular sport in college for several decades (1). In 1903, the Intercollegiate Rowing Association was founded as the world’s first scholastic organization devoted to the sport of rowing (they eventually joined the NCAA), later followed by the advent of rowing as an Olympic sport in 1900. The US won two gold medals in 1900 and 1904, but was subsequently beat by England in 1908 and 1912. This led to the use of college teams, rather than professional teams, to represent the US in the Olympics and resulted in a win at the 1920 Olympic Games when the U.S. Naval Academy represented the US (1).

Today, collegiate rowing has been eclipsed by the popularity of football and basketball, but the sport still maintains a stronghold in 91 college programs across the country, many of which offer substantial scholarships to help offset the cost of tuition (1). Reference: 1. Athnet. (2018). The history of the sport of rowing. Retrieved from

An Interview with a Buckeye Champion

Catherine McNutt, EI

Catherine McNutt, EI

Design Engineer

BS in Civil Engineering, The Ohio State University


Catherine McNutt, one of NCI’s most recent hires, is not only a graduate of one of these highly esteemed rowing teams, but a four-time BigTen Champion, who has also placed 2nd at the NCAA’s! Learn more about Catherine, rowing, and her career journey to NCI in the interview below!

A Team Player and Leader

Catherine excels at whatever she does because she knows both how to lead, and how to be part of a team.


A true Buckeye at heart, Catherine and her friends make sure to share love for their alma mater both at home and abroad!

OSU Rowing Traditions!

One of my favorite traditions is singing off your teammates. Each school has their own fight song that they will cheer on their teammates as they push off the dock when they head out to race. My team also ended race day by singing Carmen Ohio together on the bus ride home.

Singing off Your Teammates

Carmen Ohio Lyrics and Song!

We held a skit night every year – and this year the seniors presented different versions of our head coach.

Skit Night

OSU Women's Rowing Facebook Page

Another tradition, this one worldwide, is that if your boat wins, the crew gets to toss their coxswain into the water. And since they’re the smallest on the team, they often get thrown far!

Coxswain Toss

Watch a Traditional Coxswain Toss!

   Frequently Asked Questions

When did you first get interested in rowing?
My sister first got me into rowing. She had rowed throughout high school, and convinced me to try it my senior year. After my first few times on the water, I was hooked. My freshman year of college, I joined Ohio State’s team through their novice program- which allows anyone willing to try the sport, regardless of experience, a chance to learn and compete. It was an amazing experience, allowing me the opportunity to train with teammates who had never even heard about rowing until a few weeks ago, others who had rowed for years, and with people from around the world. I really enjoyed being out on the water every day and being part of something larger than myself. It’s the ultimate team sport, because if any one person is not following the person in front of them, the whole boat suffers.
Did your sister row in college?
My twin sister JoAnna rowed for Cornell while studying biomedical engineering there. We had the chance to race each other once a year at the Clemson Invite, where Ohio State raced against 17 other schools. This was one of my favorite regattas, since nothing beats sibling rivalry! Also, my little sister is a senior in high school and plans to row in college as well.
Where were your teammates from?
I had teammates from across the US and abroad, including England, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, Chile, Denmark, South Africa and France. One of them even competed in the Rio Olympics for Spain, placing 6th in the pair, before coming back to finish her degree. I really enjoyed learning about their experiences and cultures, as well as sharing with them some of our traditions.
What other sports and activities did you do as a child?
I tried everything I could. In high school, I was on my school’s bowling and a local rugby team.
Is it possible to row if you don’t live by a lake?
Rivers are great for rowing! Rowing shells are very shallow, and only need about two feet of depth. So even if you don’t live near a lake, there may be a river nearby with a local club.
How does rowing work?
There are two types of rowing- sculling and sweeping. In sculling, each person has two oars. These tend to be the smaller boats, including the single and up to a four-person boat called the quad. In sculling, the person nearest the front of the boat is in charge of steering and giving commands to the other rowers. In sweeping, each person has a single oar, out to one side or the other. Boat classes in sweeping include the two-person pair, the four, and the eight. The eight is the largest at 62 feet long, and the carbon fiber shell weighs in at 220 lbs. Colleges in the US typically only race the four and the eight, since these are the NCAA boat classes. There is an additional person in these larger boats, called the coxswain. She is the steerer, motivator, and overall commander of her crew. There is a speaker system that runs along the boat that lets everyone hear her, even in the commotion of a race.   Many people assume that rowing is an arm-heavy sport. But it’s actually mostly legs! There is a seat that slides on rails that lets you to push off a footplate, allowing you to use your whole body. Rowers face backwards so that they can use their legs to pull the oar into their body.
How long are the races?
Races are 2,000 m in length. In an eight, it usually takes about 6 ½ minutes to complete. Fours are a bit slower, and the fastest crews complete it in just under 7 minutes.
Are there any rowing traditions?
One of my favorite traditions is singing off your teammates. Each school has their own fight song that they will cheer on their teammates as they push off the dock when they head out to race. My team also ended race day by singing Carmen Ohio together on the bus ride home. We held a skit night every year- and this year the seniors presented different versions of our head coach. Another tradition, this one worldwide, is that if your boat wins, the crew gets to toss their coxswain into the water. And since they’re the smallest on the team, they often get thrown far!
Any championships?
I’m a four-time BigTen Champion, and have placed 2nd at NCAA’s while on the team. We have placed in the top 6 nationally since I was part of the team.
Future rowing plans?

I plan on coaching high schoolers in the spring when their racing season begins. I’d love to give back to the rowing community and all the support people have shown me.

How does rowing relate to engineering?

Rowing is a very technical sport. There’s a saying that in the first month you can learn 90% of the stroke, but you will spend a decade mastering the final 10%. Everything from the angle that your blade goes into the water, to how you apply the pressure throughout the stroke makes an impact on how the boat runs. I really enjoyed getting to learn the details and trying to find the best method- which is how it relates to engineering for me. We kept track of many factors, including heart rate, weight, and our power output on the indoor machines to manage how we were performing in relation to ourselves, and compared to each other. We also managed the equipment when we traveled, derigging the shells and often resembling Jenga trying to fit everything on one trailer. Teamwork and communication were critical in every aspect of what we did, and is also a key part of engineering.

What got you into engineering in the first place?

Mostly my family. My dad is a mechanical engineer, and his father a physicist. Growing up I was always helping out with projects and asking questions, and I really liked the challenge of designing and building my own.

Was it challenging to balance school and rowing?

I’m glad I did rowing in college, but I’ll admit that it was extremely stressful at times trying to balance practices, travelling, and my classes. One semester I had an 8:00 AM class and had to do the workouts before it, waking up at 4:40 AM everyday to get out to the river in time to make it back for the lecture. That semester I also had a night class twice a week until 9:00 PM, starting right after our weekly test pieces in the evening. If it wasn’t for my teammates I wouldn’t have continued past the first few months on varsity – with 4 hours a day of practices I was continually exhausted in classes. However, it was an experience like no other, and I pushed myself farther than I knew I could. I would do it again, even if it was challenging.

Is rowing gender specific?

Rowing, unlike most sports, is only recognized by the NCAA for women. When Title IX passed, it required colleges to provide the same equal opportunities, and funding, to women as they do for men. Because of this, many schools choose to balance out large men’s programs with rowing teams. Ohio State is one of these schools that does not have a varsity men’s team equivalent. Rowing is growing nationwide, and scholarship opportunities are readily available for talented female athletes. The women’s national elite team is the dominate crew worldwide in the eight – winning the last three Olympics and every world championship in between in this event, outperforming their male counterparts.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I like reading, playing ultimate Frisbee, and hiking with my dog. You can also catch me on the couch watching Grey’s Anatomy.

Photos from the Water!

An Engineer of Many Faces

NCAA Rowing Championships

Read about the Beavercreek, Ohio natives journey to the NCAA rowing championships!

Bucks Go International

Watch Catherine speak about her volunteer efforts in the Dominican Republic.

Player Profile

Get the stats on one of OSU’s finest!

Get the Latest News & Updates

Insider grants, links to important engineering workshops and deadlines, as well as fun relevant articles to improve your work and life outside of engineering are a sign-up away. Our ONCE A MONTH email is all you need to stay up-to-date with the engineering world. Click on the link to the right to sign up today!

Share This