Homer Alaska - Sports

Story last updated at 3:38 PM on Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Homer rower awarded fellowship



Photo by John MacClellan

Homer-grown Lindsay Olsen, left, and Emma Teal Laukitis pose with their Williams College rowing trophy in May 2011.

Former Homer High student Lindsay Olsen will take her Alaska fishing roots global next fall under a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship through Williams College in Williams-town, Mass.

The Watson fellowship is awarded to graduating seniors of "unusual promise" for a year of travel outside their home country to conduct research on their focus. Olsen was one of 40 awarded applicants out of 700 total for the fellowship.

Working on her father's boat, the John Henry, Olsen grew up with a love for fishing. Studying history in New England n the off-seasons, Olsen has returned each summer to Alaska waters. Last year she captained the all female boat, Thorey Munro for Bristol Bay salmon. Her fellowship research continues her fishing tradition and will focus on fishing communities in New Zealand, Norway, Indonesia and the Faroe Islands.

"I will research how coastal communities live off of sustenance fishing, whether they are similar or different depending on the different cultures," said Olsen.

The fellowship allows its researchers the freedom to make their own itineraries and with that, set up their own contacts.

"The success of the research is solely up to me. The fellowship is just giving me the fund. I will have to do all the rest," said Olsen.

This won't be the first of Olsen's travels. The summer of 2008, Olsen and her father, Eric, drove the 6,500 miles from Homer to Williamstown, Mass. on a BMW motorcycle.

"The motorcycle trip was the follow up to a childhood promise that my dad made, claiming that he would take me to college on a motorcycle, so if I didn't like it I would know the way and could walk home," Olsen said.

She never had to walk home. Instead she walked on to the Williams women's crew team as a freshman, instantly falling in love with the sport and her teammates.

"Being a member of the Williams women's crew team has been a defining part of my time here," Olsen said. "My teammates have shown me how to push myself in ways I didn't know were possible, and have redefined my understanding of dedication. Winning the Head of the Charles, ECACs, and the NCAAs have been among the most exciting moments of my college career, but the real victory has been in finding some of my very best friends on this team."

Kate Maloney, the head women's rowing coach, had high praise for Olsen.

"Lindsay is a leader in thought and action. She has worked incredibly hard to reach a high level of fitness and rowing ability as a senior and her teammates look to her for inspiration."

Onota Lake, the college crew team's practicing waters, has been Olsen's aqua sanctuary in that landlocked part of the state. Tides are changing and soon she will be surrounded by salt water from ten different seas.

At the end of her one year journey, she along with the other fellowship awardees will attend a Thomas J. Watson conference where each will present their findings and, most importantly, discuss their personal growth.

"The fellowship committee made it clear that they invest in people, not projects," Olsen said.

Olsen's investment will start Aug. 1. Until her departure, she will keep her time occupied with graduation in early June and another season of Bristol Bay drift netting.

Olsen said, "After the fellowship I am not too sure what I will do. I still have some more exploring to do."

Angelina Skowronski is a freelance writer who lives in Homer.