SACRAMENTO, Calif. – St. Francis senior Kelly Niethammer has committed to the Stanford Lightweight rowing program and will attend the Pac-12 institution in the fall.
"It does not feel real," said Niethammer. "I am so excited. It is definitely my dream come true. I have always loved Stanford so being able to represent them as an athlete is truly amazing. They are a phenomenal team. When I visited the campus and stayed with the team on my official visit, it felt like the perfect place for me. I felt like I fit in with the team and I loved the coaches."
Niethammer will compete for Coach Kate Bertko, an Olympic lightweight rower, who took over Stanford lightweight rowing program in 2016. The Stanford Lightweight Women's team won their fourth consecutive national IRA championship last season.
"I definitely did not know if crew would be my path," said Niethammer. "When I was coming into high school, I had run track and played soccer and volleyball. I did all the sports at the rec level. I knew I wanted to do a sport competitively so I decided to give crew a try".
The trial period was an eye-opener to the challenging sport, yet she stuck with it and now she will become a Stanford Cardinal and compete for their nationally-ranked program.
"It was really challenging and it was a big time commitment," said Niethammer of rowing. "I am glad I decided to stick it out even with the blisters all over my hands. It was also a great way to meet people outside of St. Francis and many of my best friends are my teammates. I truly love the sport and the people I have met through rowing".
She has competed for Capital Crew over the last four seasons. She lists among her top accomplishments competing at the Head of the Charles 4+ in October, 2018.
"It was amazing competing at the Head of the Charles because there is so much history at the event," recalled Niethammer. "It was beautiful rowing on the Charles River and the event had junior and college teams from across the country. I will never forget it!"
She also helped her boat to top-three finishes in the Southwest Regional Championships for the Lightweight 4+ (2nd place) and Lightweight 8+ (3rd place) qualifying for Youth Nationals in 2018. Her boat finished ninth in the nation at 2018 Youth Nationals in the Lightweight 8+ and placed second in the Lightweight 8+ at San Diego Crew Classic in the same season. She can row both port and starboard, providing versatility for her team.
Niethammer has been part of the student leadership as class secretary for the past three years, has been a school ambassador and is a St. Francis Big Sister. She will officially declare her major after sophomore season but is looking into an interdisciplinary major that combines science and the humanities.
"Kelly is one of our most determined athletes on our team," said Sarah Puddicombe, the Varsity Women's Head Coach at Capital Crew. "With her positive attitude and her incredible work ethic she has proven herself extremely valuable to our squad. Kelly was in the lightweight 8+ last year that finished 9th in the country and she is on track to return to Nationals this year. Stanford Lightweights is lucky to have her!"
Niethammer will participate in the St. Francis Spring Signing Day event on Wednesday, April 17 at 8:30 a.m.