Senior Angela Chang did not arrive at Harvard looking to be a coxswain. Instead, she started out playing lacrosse, a sport in which she earned honors throughout high school. But, looking for a change, she decided to switch to a completely different sport: rowing.
And she does it for the men’s team.
“At the beginning, a couple of my friends [on the team] were the ones who suggested that I should try it out,” Chang explained. “It was kind of terrifying ... But it was a huge thrill being on the water.”
Senior Collin Rees has been with Chang from the start. Racing with her in the 2F and the 3V their freshman and sophomore years, he has seen the evolution of her skills as she refined her talents.
“You could already see many of the things that make her such a great coxswain today,” Rees said. “She really gets to know you, then during a race motivates you individually, rather than just as a boat as a whole.”
So far this year, Chang has had an enormous impact upon the program. At the Princeton Chase last weekend, Chang led her Varsity Eight boat to a win, finishing the three-mile course in 13:15:44. At the Head of the Charles, Chang coxed the runner-up boat for the Crimson.
“We’ve had an exciting start with the fall season,” Chang said. “Head of the Charles was amazing. Going into Princeton Chase, we wanted the double win—that was our goal. We went there and were able to execute, even though it wasn’t the smoothest race.”
Among the lightweight men’s team, Chang is known to be one thing in particular: a competitor. Despite starting crew later in life than other coxswains, Chang worked her way quickly to the top. After walking onto the team her freshman spring, she became the coxswain for the 1V her junior year—an almost unheard of feat.
“Junior year is where everything clasped,” captain Tom Nesel said. “It almost seemed like it came out of left field. She brought a whole lot of aggression and a lot of expertise to the field; she really stepped up her game.”
Despite switching sports, Change said she has been able to maintain the same mentality throughout.
“My mentality as a field player was just playing every inch every second to make my teammates look better,” Chang explained. “Knowing that the guys are giving that much and more, pushing their limits, and doing it for themselves, for each other, and for Harvard rowing, I know that I have to remain 100-percent focused.”
Freshman lightweight coach Linda Muri, who coached Chang during her first semester of crew, cited the importance of her previous athletic training in becoming the successful coxswain that she is today.
“From lacrosse, from being a competitive athlete, she knows that there are times when you are asked to do something that other people might consider to be a sacrifice,” Muri said. “She is what I consider a professional coxswain—she has the right attitude, works hard, wants to know what she can do to make the boat do better, and is in charge when she needs to be.”
Chang is the only female member of the men’s lightweight team, but it has never made a difference to her or to her teammates.
“She’s absolutely just one of the guys,” Rees said. “We don’t even think twice about it. She’s as much of a competitor as any one of us, if not more.”