Kelly Foster is back where she belongs

  • By John Boyle Herald Writer
  • Saturday, May 3, 2008 12:04am
  • SportsSports

SEATTLE — For Kelly Foster, the second choice has, on at least two occasions, been the right one.

As a freshman at Lake Stevens High School, Foster tried out for soccer in the fall of 2000.

She got cut.

So Foster, a multi-sport participant for most of her life, turned to rowing to keep busy. Foster had older cousins who were rowers and they suggested she try the sport. She tagged along with a friend’s older sister who rowed for the Everett Rowing Association.

In the next four years, the would-be soccer player became one of the country’s best junior rowers. She traveled the world and won a world championship. She represented the U.S. on the Junior National Team and broke records.

Because of her rowing talents and academic achievements, Foster had an enviable tough choice as a senior at Lake Stevens: A full ride to Washington, a place near family and friends with a strong rowing tradition, or a full ride to Stanford, another school with an accomplished rowing program and one of the best private schools in the nation.

Foster said she went back and forth before choosing Stanford, which brings us to second choice No. 2.

Foster participated in Stanford’s fall season as a freshman, but a back injury forced her to redshirt in the spring. By the end of her first year in Palo Alto, Foster decided she wanted to come back home.

Like crew, Washington was Foster’s second choice, but it also turned out to be the better one for her. Now a senior rowing on the 15th-ranked Huskies’ varsity eight, Foster will help power the Huskies’ top boat against Navy and Melbourne (Australia) University in today’s women’s Windermere Cup.

“I had always wanted to come here and it was between those two schools for me down to the last second that I could decide,” said Foster. “Washington’s close to all of my family. It’s just where I where I wanted to be and I knew I’d be happy here.”

Foster didn’t go into details about why she left Stanford other than to say she wanted to be close to home, but says she is happy to be back.

“It’s been great,” she said. “I love rowing for (women’s coach) Bob (Ernst). It’s been a lot of fun, I’m happy, and I don’t regret my decision at all.”

Ernst, the crew program coordinator who coached the men’s program before this season, was well aware of Foster before she came to Washington. He is thrilled to have her on his team even if it did take her longer to arrive than the Huskies had hoped back in 2004.

“We were kind of disappointed when she decided to go to Stanford, but then when she wanted to transfer back, the welcome wagon was out,” Ernst said.

After sitting out the 2006 season because of transfer rules, Foster was back in action last season rowing for Washington’s junior varsity eight. This year, she has moved to fourth seat in the varsity boat.

Ernst, who calls Foster the most improved rower on his team, has not been surprised by her success this season.

“She is one of the most natural talents that I’ve every coached,” said Ernst, who has coached at Washington in various jobs since 1974. “She is an aerobically gifted person who is also very, very strong.”

That natural talent didn’t take long to show in Foster. Less than three years after she took up the sport, she broke the national women’s 18-and-under indoor 2,000-meter ergometer record. She also won a world indoor championship in Paris in 2003, and was a member of the U.S. Junior National Team that won a silver medal in Greece.

Even though Foster has rowed on big stages in multiple countries, she still looks at today’s 11:15 women’s Windermere Cup, the second-to-last race on the slate of the Opening Day Regatta, as one of the biggest of her career.

Because the Windermere Cup is held in conjunction with the opening day of yachting season, there are hundreds of boats lining the course before it enters the narrow Montlake Cut. From there, thousands of fans line both sides of the course, creating an environment unlike other races.

“There’s nothing, around the world, that’s bigger, even the world championships,” said Foster, who has previously rowed in the Opening Day Reggatta’s earlier races as a high schooler and in the UW’s second varsity eight boat last season. “There’s nothing like the Cup.”

And for Foster, there’s nothing like a second choice becoming No. 1.

Contact Herald Writer John Boyle at jboyle@heraldnet.com. For more on University of Washington sports, check out the Huskies blog at heraldnet.com /huskiesblog

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