Kylie Stevens has spent countless hours on grass, gym floors and tennis courts.
These days she can be found on various waterways in Northern California. On Wednesday morning, the Ripon High senior signed her letter of intent to compete for the St. Mary’s College rowing team in front of a large contingent consisting of friends, family and administrators at the school’s North Gym.
“I was nervous, honestly,” Stevens said. “It’s almost like signing your life away and there were so many people there. At the same time I was excited. I could not wait to sign that piece of paper. St. Mary’s is the right place for me. I wouldn’t have wanted to sign anywhere else. It was definitely one of my best days.”
Stevens has had less than a calendar year’s worth of experience as a rower, but her natural athleticism and competitive fire have allowed her to pick up the sport quickly.
Her father, Kye Stevens, is the recreation director for the City of Ripon, so she has played many sports ranging from soccer to flag football to basketball and tennis. The younger Stevens’ main passion, though, was volleyball, but the physical demands of the sport had taken a toll on her body. In the spring of 2012, she suffered a stress fracture in a fibula while playing for her club team. Stevens played for the Ripon varsity squad in 2013 but continued to battle through injuries. It was then she decided to take a new path in her athletic career.
“Rowing is unlike any other sport I’ve done,” Stevens said. “It’s the hardest and most unique. It takes so much strength, endurance and technique and I’m still learning something new every day.”
Stevens researched rowing clubs in the region and reached out to the nearest one: the Central Valley Rowing Club. She got her feet wet last January and never looked back. This past weekend Stevens helped her team win the Bair Island Aquatic Center Fall Regatta in San Mateo, the final event for the 5-kilometer fall season. Just days later, she strengthened her commitment to the sport.
“I’m an athlete and I always saw myself playing a sport in college,” Stevens said. “I saw myself rowing in college but never thought I could actually do it.”
Central Valley Rowing Club coach Leslie Sexton advised Stevens to look into the San Diego State and St. Mary’s programs, two schools Sexton has connections with. After meeting with the St. Mary’s recruiters and coaches and making her official visit to the Moraga campus on Halloween, the decision was easy.
“I never thought this would happen,” Stevens said. “I signed with a Division I school and they have a good team. It’s crazy.”