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Nicolas Cypro: From Cross Country to Crew

Jan 26, 2015

Nicolas Cypro is not your average college athlete. Then again, the majority of the Washington Men’s Crew wouldn’t fit into that category.  A high school cross country star from Spokane, Wash., Cypro caught the coaches’ attention at an open tryout for the rowing team in 2012.

“Remember that Northwest native with no rowing experience, who was brave enough to try something new and driven to excel?” Washington Rowing men’s head coach Michael Callahan said. “That’s Nick!”

As a freshman at Spokane’s Lewis & Clark High School, he joined the cross country and track teams. What was initially a struggle became a very successful endeavor for Cypro, as he helped his team to the state championships his junior and senior years, with a trip to nationals during his senior year.

He had talent that could take him to college on a track or cross country scholarship, but Cypro experienced multiple stress fractures in his shins throughout his high school running career.

“At a certain point, I realized that my body couldn’t handle running at that level throughout college,” Cypro said. “So I started looking for another sport that I could try because I really like the competitive aspect and being part of a team.”

Cypro caught wind of Washington Rowing’s annual open tryout and talked to former high school track teammate Beddome Allen ‘13, who also walked on to the team  at UW, and decided to give it a try.

“I didn’t know much so I was kind of nervous at first,” Cypro said. “I was kind of unsure about it since it was so foreign to me, but over time I got more and more comfortable with it. I’ve been able to enjoy it more and more.”

Despite having no rowing experience before coming to UW, Cypro fell in love with the sport. He has steadily worked his way up through the program, going from the second freshman eight in his first year to racing in the Third Varsity Eight at the IRA National Championships and winning a Pac-12 Championship in the Varsity Four in 2014. This year, in training and the fall racing, he has consistently been part of the second varsity eight and earned an invitation to team’s winter training camp in San Diego. 

Cypro is one of many rowers on both the men’s and women’s teams that were great athletes in other sports with little to no crew experience and were molded into great rowers at UW. The habits formed while running cross country served him well as he learned a new sport.

“If you’re an athlete and you have the work ethic and the determination to excel at what you do, even if it is a new sport, you’re going to find a way to practice it and try to perfect it,” Cypro said. “Obviously with running, I had a good aerobic training capacity and good work ethic. Another part of being an athlete is just adjusting to new situations and being able to make changes and kind of stick with what you’re doing.”

The high-quality competition at UW is one of the reasons athletes like Cypro thrive and learn a new sport so quickly. The culture created by Callahan and his staff is set up for teammates to push each other every day.

“Nick entered a team at the top of its game that demanded the best from each member, with highly recruited and experienced rowers and excellent tradition,” Callahan said. “That says a lot about his character, work ethic and perseverance.” 

His work ethic and perseverance have led to Cypro excelling in the classroom as well. He was on the Pac-12 and IRA All-Academic teams last year as a neurobiology major with a 3.55 GPA. He has made the annual Dean’s List two of his three years at UW and six of his nine quarters. Cypro won the Dick Erickson Memorial Scholarship last spring, a scholarship given to support a Northwest native who has excelled as a walk-on. With many of his family members in the medical field, Cypro hopes to attend medical school. His success as a student is one of many similar stories among members of the UW Men’s Rowing team.

“It is really special to be part of a team that is so committed to excellence, and that applies to academics as well,” Cypro said. “That work ethic and commitment every day throughout the year is the reason we have good students and win national championships in the spring.”

It’s a prestigious group to be a part of, and Cypro is proud to be able to carry on the traditions of UW Rowing.

“I’m just really glad and really proud that I can be a part of it,” Cypro said. “With this rowing team, there is so much history here, and so much excellence that has been on this team before us – it is just really cool to be a part of such a great legacy. You meet people who rowed here years ago and they’re still coming back, and they’re still supporting the program, and a part of the rowing culture here. It is really cool to be a part of that.”