Former members of the University of Wisconsin women’s rowing team, Grace Latz and Sophia Vitas, as well as Ben Ruble and Dariush “Tim” Aghai from the men’s rowing team, represented the United States at the 2017 World Rowing Championships in Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida.
Recent 2016 Wisconsin graduate, Sophia Vitas, raced in the women’s eight, just two seats away from 2011 graduate Grace Latz who sits at seven seat. Although the two Badgers missed each other by a year in the Porter Boathouse, they share commonalities from their separate experiences of wearing the Wisconsin “W.”
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Both women walked on to the Wisconsin women’s rowing team, and each came out of it with a profound commitment to consistently striving for improvement.
“Those who get good at rowing know the learning is never done when you get into different boat classes, new lineups, new rhythms and move up from freshman to varsity,” Latz said.
This nugget of wisdom seems to have served the former Badger well, as this is not her first time representing the United States on the international level. After graduating from Wisconsin, Latz was selected to row on the national team numerous times, and she attributes much of her success to the Badger rowing experience.
“Rowing at Wisconsin teaches you a lot more than just how to take your blade in and out of the water,” Latz said. “Having a long winter forced us indoors on the erg more than other programs, but you really hone your mental toughness there.”
Grace Latz won gold at the 2015 World Rowing Championships in the women’s four, and raced to a fifth-place finish in the women’s quadruple sculls event at the 2016 Olympics Summer Games in Rio de Janerio, Brazil.
“Our coach [at Wisconsin], Bebe Bryans, did an excellent job making us adaptable athletes by putting us in pairs and straight fours, something most programs don’t do, but was so crucial in learning better technique and understanding of how the boat should run,” Latz said.
While rowing for Wisconsin’s first Big Ten championship team in the varsity eight, Latz extended her determination outside of the boathouse. She initiated a game day recycling program, and was awarded the University of Wisconsin Athletic Department Student-Athlete Community Service Award for her notable contributions to environmental sustainability on campus.
Latz, along with Vitas and the United States women’s eight raced to a fourth place finish in the 2017 World Rowing Championships, after clinching second place in heats and repêchage, finishing less than one second behind New Zealand and Canada, respectively.
2012 graduate, Tim Aghai, brought home a piece of silver hardware from his second place finish in the men’s eight event at the 2017 World Rowing Championships. Aghai secured first place in the men’s eight in the under-23 category on the international level back in 2011.
Former captain of the Wisconsin men’s rowing team, Ben Ruble, made his first appearance on the United States national team roster at this 2017 worlds. Before graduating from Wisconsin in 2013, Ruble raced at various impressive collegiate races such as the IRA National Championships and Eastern Sprints.
Emulating the appreciation for continually learning embraced by Grace and Sophia, Ruble continued to grow as both an athlete and a scholar upon graduating from UW. He enrolled at the University of Cambridge. And won one of the most historic rowing races in the world, The Boat Race.
“Studying at Cambridge, while training in a program with no NCAA restrictions, requires unrelenting hard work, but it is all worth it to win the race against Oxford,” Ruble said. “Wisconsin prepared me for Cambridge very well by teaching me the fundamentals of rowing and then helping me improve throughout my four years.”
Now a veteran of the World Rowing Championships after earning a lane in the men’s four B Final and taking fourth place, Ruble remembers the beginning of his rowing career in Madison.
“One of the central focuses, from day one at Wisconsin, is to get better every day,” Ruble said. “I really embraced that idea and it has taken me this far.”