Madison Shepler was understandably nervous the first time she got out on the water.
Much of her high school athletic career centered on volleyball. A 6-foot outside hitter, Shepler excelled at the sport during her time at Black Hills High School. She was an all-conference selection this past fall during her senior season. The year before she played a vital role in helping the Wolves end a six-year state playoff drought.
She had never tried anything like rowing before.
“I think it took some time to be out on the water and getting comfortable because it’s kind of scary actually,” Shepler said about her first experience rowing, “but I knew I loved it from the start because it was like no sport I had done before.”
It’s safe to say she’s since overcome her initial concerns about the sport.
Shepler spent the last four years with volleyball as her main passion. However, she will spend the next four with rowing filling that role.
Shepler, a member of Olympia Area Rowing, signed a National Letter of Intent to compete for the Oregon State University women’s rowing team in December.
“I am most looking forward to being a part of my new family at Oregon State and a part of Beaver nation,” Shepler said. “It’s a community there and the school makes you feel included and a part of something more than just your team.”
The moment Shepler stepped inside the rowing facility at OSU during her official visit, she knew this was the place she wanted to be for the next four years.
By the time she was departing Corvallis, she had an offer in hand to join the team the following fall.
“I made the decision to sign with them the next day after talking with my parents,” Shepler said. “I just knew that this was the place that I was supposed to go and row. I loved the people and the campus. It was like there’s nothing more to decide, this is my school and where I belong.”
The Beavers, under second-year coach Katie Maxim, concluded their fall season by winning four of the five races against Gonzaga and Washington State in Spokane on November 3. The team begins its spring season at Stanford on March 9 with the season concluding with the Pac-12 championships on May 19.
“What impresses me the most about Oregon State is the drive of their athletes and the background. Every one of their athletes competes and works hard every day with no complaints and they just love what they do,” Shepler said. “As well as, most of their rowing athletes are girls with backgrounds just like mine, where they played multiple sports in high school, but found that rowing was their sport now.”
Shepler had no real ties to rowing when she first started. None of her family members or classmates had been involved in the sport before. Her father had simply mentioned that some of his co-worker’s kids were rowers and that was enough to motivate her to seek it out.
“This really piqued my interest because it’s a sport I’ve never tried so I said why not. My mom soon found a free row day at the local club, Olympia Area Rowing. This was my first experience rowing,” Shepler said. “I thought it was really fun and wanted to do it more, so we signed me up for the five-week high school summer camp OAR was hosting at their boathouse. After the summer camp, I knew I wanted to do this sport more and I knew I had already found a love for it.”
Among her top accomplishments, Shepler finished first in the women’s 4 at the Green Lake Regatta and competed at the Northwest Ergomania, placing first in her heat and fifth overall among notice rowers.
She had also been talking to Washington State University and had a visit at the University of Washington before deciding on Oregon State.
“Oregon State was one of the top schools I wanted to talk too. It was a school my dad’s coworker’s daughter had rowed at and she had an amazing time and experience,” Shepler said. “And the school has an amazing sports medicine program which I want to major in.”
Shepler just completed her winter season training with OAR and will soon start up the spring rowing season, which will get her back out on the water.
“What I love most of this sport is giving it your all for that 1, 2k or even 5k. Driving down your legs, giving it all you have, and the feeling afterwards of accomplishment,” Shepler said. “Winning a race is a way different feeling than winning a game in volleyball. There’s just so much more adrenaline and (the feeling of) power rushing through you after racing.”