Updated May 23, 2012
By Maiah Hollander
Who would have thought a high school play would lead Rob Munn, a senior oarsman for the University of Washington crew team, to be one of the most successful athletes in the program?
Now it was not planned out that way.
Like most high school students, Munn was just trying to fulfill a fine arts requirement at Redmond High School.
“Since the play was during the time for spring sports, he missed the cutoff date,” his mother, Sally Munn said. “The school wouldn't let him do both.”
So now, a highly athletic and energetic kid had nowhere to turn except his play. That is until his family got involved.
Best described as a crew family, the Munns have a history of athletes that is all centered around rowing.
“I got into it because my cousin used to row,” Rob Munn said. “I played lots of basketball and soccer when I was growing up, and there was something about rowing that just made me want to stick with it more so than the other sports.”
But the funny thing is it was not just Munn's cousin that may have swung the tables.
“His uncle used to row for Stanford, and I tried rowing, too, in college,” Sally Munn said. “We all may have set him up that way.”
Luckily for UW, Munn was well suited for crew.
“He's physically very strong, very competitive and very intelligent,” head coach Michael Callahan said in an interview with UW360. “He's always willing to take the first step in the direction that we need to go.”
However that first step has not always been the easiest for Munn.
“My senior year [in high school] I made the Junior National team, and the week before we left for the Junior World Championship, I broke my foot and was unable to go compete,” Munn said. “I basically just hopped off a curb in flip flops and it was just a freak accident.”
But from that disappointment, Munn was able to show that it was not just his physicality that was suitable for crew but his mentality as well.
“He held his head up high and wished his team well even when they were being dropped off at the airport to go to Austria and he was going home,” Sally recalled. “He faced that with bravery and never complained.”
Sally believes that from learning to deal with disappointment, one can learn to handle success. And in the case of Munn, it is clear to see where she gets her belief.
Munn went on to commit to UW as a high school senior and began the foray into arguably one of the most strenuous and demanding crew programs in the country.
“When you first get to college as a freshman you're practicing six times a week, a couple hours each day,” Munn said. “Just like any other sport you're in, it requires practice and it requires time to get used to it.”
But these practices do not let up just because athletes have school. Munn learned this firsthand while pursuing a Political Science major along with a History minor.
“When you're a freshman in college, it's really important [to balance school and practice],” Munn said. “Your coach tries to help you out, and you have to be organize your time.”
Luckily for Munn, his work ethic does not stop after rowing practice.
Others describe him as being 100 percent dedicated to everything he does, be it crew or school. His competitive nature takes over and nothing slows him down.
“He's always been competitive,” Sally said. “But he is also a team player and enjoys being a part of a team.”
A trait that the UW crew team desperately covets.
Always striving to put his best oar forward, Munn has given his all to crew no matter if he was a part of the Varsity Eight or the Freshman Eight.
“I think everyone's goal when you get into a sport is to perform at the highest level you can,” Munn said. “I'm always just trying to strive and do that with my teammates.”
Luckily for Munn, his performance has finally landed him in the Varsity Eight just in time to compete for the National Championship.
Having never lost a head-to-head race as an oarsman it seems bizarre that Munn has never competed on the Varsity Eight at this level before. That is until you look at the selection process.
“You base it on a number of things,” Munn said. “Land workouts, an erg, which is a rowing simulator to measure the strength of a rower. We also do set distance pieces and you can switch guys in and out of the boats to see who is faster.”
But even with all that, Munn has consistently worked his way up the ladder to finally land himself in the top tier of UW crew: the Varsity Eight.
“Essentially the Varsity Eight is the fastest combination of guys that a program can put together every year,” Munn said. “You have everybody that's a part of this Varsity Eight working together towards a common goal.”
And the goal is no small feat.
The IRA National Championship is the culmination of a season for the nation's top crews.
“The main thing now is just winning the IRA,” Munn said. “It's been the goal all season, and it's been the goal since I was a freshman in college and now in the Varsity Eight.”
And now is the time for Munn to shine.
In his final year here at the UW, Munn finally gets his chance to compete in the highest level of collegiate crew before heading out into the world.
Even then, Munn has options open to him that could further his already illustrious career as an oarsman.
“I could go and try to make the U.S. National team for rowing, or I could go into the professional world and get a job,” said Munn. “It's a decision that I'm trying to figure out.”