Meet Mike Buckiewicz

May 12, 2010

Senior Mike Buckiewicz entered Oregon State University with background in athletics and a hope to continue playing sports in college. He was recruited by rowing Head Coach Steve Todd at the required freshman orientation program, and is now 'addicted' to rowing. Mike excels in both athletics and academics and hopes to achieve his big goals while taking life an inch at a time.

How did you get your start in rowing?
'I didn't know anything about the sport when I came to Oregon State. I played four sports in high school, so I had come here with an athletic background and wanted to play something here. When I was at the START program, Coach Steve Todd actually pulled me aside because I was tall and of an athletic build. He asked me to join the class, which then carried over to the team. It's turned into one of the sports that I'm really addicted to. There are those sports where you kind of like it, that's basketball for me - I love playing but I just couldn't see it going any farther than high school. After my knee surgery in high school it ended up that I couldn't go any farther. I ended up coming here thinking I could do whatever I wanted, but then I ended up on this team, which was a good experience.'

What do you like best about rowing?
'Rowing takes a lot of discipline, and it takes a lot of commitment. With the team members I'm with, you really experience a family-like situation. If one of us is in pain, we're all in pain. We're all connected. If you can't make practice because of sickness or an injury, they're all feeling it because you make a big impact in the boat.'

Do you guys have any goals that you would like to achieve this year?
'The biggest thing we want to do this year is make the IRAs (Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championhips). It's 18 teams, and to make it we're going to need to have a really good boat and be really fast. Being in the Pac-10 is really rough because we're going against some of the top teams in the nation. The top-two boats in the nation are California and Washington, so in order to get into the IRAs in a guaranteed spot, we're going to have to get third at Pac-10s, and in order to do that we're going to have to get a lot of faster and get a lot more technical. We'll be able to make it; we're just going to have to do a lot better.'

How long have you been playing sports?
'I started playing sports when I was in first grade. I started with baseball and eventually in third or fourth grade I joined football and basketball. I've just been playing three sports all year round for 14 or 15 years of my life, so this transition has been pretty easy. It wasn't as hard as a lot of people think it is.'

How did you experience in high school with playing multiple sports and getting good grades help you make the transition to college?
'In high school, they think they're preparing you for what's coming here, but sometimes that's hard because it's a totally different experience. To try and enhance my high school experience really helped me transition to the engineering college. All the homework and time management had to happen in order to grow and make it through school.'

What is going through your head right before a race?
'Over the years I've changed it here and there. Because of the experience I've had, it's changed to the point where I've started to relax and I can't think about a whole lot, mostly just the commitment and work I've put in. You know that it's going to happen - you're going to race, you're going to make it, it's just a question of how hard you can go. I'm not going into it saying, `Am I going to get through this, am I going to make it?' but `How hard can I go? How hard can I push myself?' I don't really think about a whole lot before a race, mostly just what I can do to make the boat better and what I need to focus on to make it go fast. My mindset in the beginning was that I was nervous. My first race was at the San Diego Crew Classic. We as a boat did not get off the line very smoothly. Usually a novice boat will catch a crab here and there, and that race was probably the roughest one I'd been in. To get off the line and start the surge, it ended up being that I figured out that you can't be nervous or you'll really mess up the boat. I've gone from being really nervous and really tense, to where it's just routine to get off the start.'

What made you decide to come to OSU?
'The academics. I wanted to be an architect when I first came to college, and then I realized that I'm not artistically gifted. I ended up trying to get into the Civil Engineering college here, and I did, but I ended up changing majors. I worked at ODOT and really liked working with the supervisors, working with the laborers, and being out there. I ending up joining the CEM (Construction Engineering Management) program here. Now that I have done that I've received four or five job offers.'

What do you plan on doing after you graduate?
'It really depends on what's going to be out there because the economy's really tough right now. It's kind of hard to really fathom what I can do with it. I'll probably start out as an entry-level manager and eventually work my way up to senior manager. Maybe building high-rise buildings, maybe highways, maybe golf courses. It just depends on the company. I've worked with a lot of highways. I haven't had a lot of experience with the structures yet, so I don't know exactly what I want to do. If I had to pick I would go with the excavation process in which you're creating silt ponds. A lot of the earthwork is my favorite.'

What other goals do you have for yourself?
'In the next five years if I make it into a company, I want to try to take a sabbatical and go down to Haiti and help out with construction there. I want to travel to third-world countries at some point in my life and manage projects there. I want to give back to the world and give back to the community who has helped me out through the years. I just want to give back so I'm not just taking away. It's just something I really want to experience.'

Is there a specific quote that inspires you?
'`Life is but a game of inches.' It really is. You just take little steps here and there. You always go forward, you never go backward. Even if it's just a small step, you just have to keep going. We're always fighting for that one inch. Looking at life, looking at rowing, intertwining them together, it feels like the inches are what I'm fighting for. So for me, with school when I'm going to class, I just need to be in class and get the grades and just get through it so I can go one with my life.'

What do you like to do in your spare time?
'I'm a big surfer. I love surfing and to go down to the beach and just surf. It's really relaxing for me. It's the place where I can think and just be free. It's just so calm and peaceful. I also like to build surfboards. I was introduced to it when I was three-years-old. My dad would put me on the board with him and we'd surf around. Now that I've grown up, every once in a while we'll go on a surfing trip, which is great. My dad is a really good friend of mine and we have a really good family connection.'

What would you say is your best quality?
'I'm not a very confident person about taking compliments, I'm humble about it, but I was told that I have good integrity. I don't take anything for granted, I always work hard for it. I'm not the kind of guy who comes into an experience, like rowing, and thinks I'm going to have a seat in the boat - I have to earn it.'