Funck, Wolanski take on coxswain role

By Danielle Nelson

*This article is posted on The Temple News website.


Kati Funck, coxswain of the men’s crew team, at a race in April 2014. Kara Milstein |TTN

Sometimes, the day after a race, members of the crew team can look forward to breakfast courtesy of Kati Jordan Funck’s cooking expertise.

“She is like our team mom,” junior Hunter Devine said. “She makes us breakfast like pancakes and stuff, which is pretty cool.”

Funck inherits a culinary gift for the kitchen, a place that has helped her family carve out a life. Her family owns two restaurants, the Funck family restaurant and Mt. Gretna Hide-A-Way, where Funck is a waitress during the summer.

But Funck is more than just a chef for the crew team. In her second season, Funck, alongside junior Julia Wolanski, is a female coxswains on the men’s team responsible for commanding a boat of crew members as they compete on water.

Along with steering the boat, Funck said coxswains are responsible for getting a boat of four or eight males’ stroke rate in sync for speed, looking for other boats around them while calling different drills, motivating the boat and instructing the boat on its next move with a level of authority.

Wolanski said the biggest change she had to make was adjusting to the level of intensity on the men’s side by changing the tone of her voice on the river.

“They want an aggressive sort of voice,” Wolanski said. “They want a deeper voice so I had to change my voice. So I know my voice is much deeper now than it was over the summer.”

Female coxswains join crew teams because of their smaller stature. Coxswains on the men’s team have to weigh at least 125 pounds. They generally have to weigh in before races and if they are below that weight limit the boat will be penalized by given extra weight. Therefore, Brian Perkins said finding individuals who can maintain the weight requirement all season long is difficult.

That was the case during Fall 2013 when the crew team could not find enough coxswains. During that time, Funck, who was friends with a few of the rowers and had gone to some of the races including the Dad Vail Regatta in Spring 2013, would joke with a few friends about being a coxswain on the men’s team. One of the rowers overheard the banter and told her about the team’s actual need for a coxswain.

At first, Funck, who is from the small town just outside of Hershey called Annville, was hesitant.

“One of my friend said, ‘Seriously, would you like to be a coxswain?’ And I was like ‘No, I don’t know anything about rowing.’ He said, ‘No, seriously, we need a coxswain’ and he gave me the coach’s number.”

It was the following week, however, when Funck saw another rower who convinced her of the team’s need for a coxswain, that she emailed the coach. But for Funck, it wasn’t easy to get on the team.

Before Funck could actually get in a boat and row with the team, she had to meet with Senior Associate Athletic Director Kristen Foley, the team’s administrator. Funck said she had to meet with Foley to ensure she had the appropriate intentions.

“I had to meet with her just to make sure I wasn’t going to cause any issue,” Funck said. “That I wasn’t going to date any of the rowers or anything like that.”

Funck wasn’t the only one who was spoken to prior to her joining the team. Perkins, along with head coach Gavin White, sat down with the team prior to her joining the squad.

“We told the guys that they have to act like gentlemen,” Perkins said. “They are representing the university, as all athletes do. So they shouldn’t just be gentlemen on the river when they are dealing with other crews out there, they should be gentlemen to each other and to their teammates because something that might be funny with a group of guys might not be funny in mixed company. So putting that in their minds made everything a little better.”

With the approval of Foley and the athletic administration, Funck was able to join the men’s crew team for the Spring 2014 season as a novice. This season, Wolanski transferred to the men’s team from the women’s side with less trouble, only needing approval from the women’s team.

After rowing on the women’s team for the past two seasons, Wolanski, who is an environmental science major, said she made the switch because of the team’s morning practice schedule and needing to devote more time to academics in the afternoon.

While most of the coxswains have had high school experience, Funck has only rowed for 10 months. Nevertheless, her teammates have noticed her improvement in the sport. Junior Hunter Devine said Funck didn’t have much understanding of rowing as a first-year rower, but she relied on the rowers, coaches and coxswains to learn how she could get better.

With a boat of up to eight guys on the river looking for direction, Funck said her biggest improvement is her level of authority.

“I am not timid,” Funck said. “I am not afraid to say, ‘Guys, put your hands on the [oar], we have to go!”

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