From Bow to Stern: Erika Johnson
Senior rower Erika Johnson

May 6, 2013

On the water, she could scare any competitor with her fierce desire to win and her raw strength. That desire to be the best often leads to wins for Johnson.

Off the water, her soft voice and laid back personality may not lead her to intimidate anyone else, but it has driven her to multiple awards in her time at Tennessee and a stellar GPA of 3.7 in Honors Biochemistry, Cellular & Molecular Biology.

Johnson, a senior, besides now being a four-year letter winner, was named Second-Team CRCA All-South Region in 2012, Conference USA All-Conference Team in 2012, CRCA National Scholar Athlete in 2011, First-Year SEC Academic Honor Roll in 2010 and SEC Academic Honor Roll in 2011 and 2012.

Most recently, Johnson was awarded the Chancellor's Citations for Outstanding Scholarship in Arts and Sciences on Monday evening, April 8, 2013. She was among 20 other Tennessee student-athletes receiving the award.

In between her school work as the semester finishes up, preparing for graduation and hours of practicing and racing as the rowing season is in full swing, Johnson took some time to sit down for a quick question and answer session.

What is the biggest thing that has shaped your life?

My supportive parents have played an important role in allowing me to pursue different interests and activities, helping me become the person I am today.

How has rowing impacted your time in college?

I've spent more time rowing in college than anything else- except maybe sleeping- so it has had a huge impact on my goals and focus. Most of my best friends from college are teammates.

How is being a senior on the team different from any other year so far?

I don't feel like I am in a drastically different role on the team this year as a senior. We only had 4 seniors last year, so this year we have been able to maintain a lot of our strengths. As a senior I only have a short time left in training and competing as a Lady Vol Rower, so realizing how transient my time is here, I want to do as much as I can before graduating and hopefully have a strengthening impact on the team.

Why did you choose to come to Tennessee?

I had never been to Tennessee before, and I wanted an experience outside of my comfort zone on the West Coast. The Smoky Mountains are beautiful, and I love how the boathouse is on campus to help us be efficient and not spend hours driving to practice every day.

How was your high school rowing different from collegiate rowing?

I only rowed for a few months in high school, but I have been on some sort of team since I was 3. Tennessee has a lot of school spirit- the way the whole town turns orange on game day is something I would never see at home. It's great how much support there is for student-athletes at Tennessee.

What do you want to do with your degree?

I am majoring in Honors Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology. I really want to go to medical school! I aspire to be involved in something like "Doctors Without Borders." I like surgery, especially orthopedic surgery, but I still have a lot of time and school before I can decide.

What is your favorite spot on campus?

It's hard to pick just one! I like the boathouse, looking out over the river. It's simultaneously peaceful, relaxing and inspiring.

What is your best memory in college?

So far my last race at NCAA's in 2010 stands out. I had been moved to the 2V8+, and we found that next level in the final and had our best performance when it counted most and placed 13th. It was a really good race- tough, a lot of sacrifices- but synergistic and rewarding.

If you could change anything in your life, would you?

There are some things I'd like to change - be stronger, faster, never get injured- but looking back my life has been shaped by my strengths and my weaknesses. While I wonder where other paths would have taken me, if I could re-do everything I would probably do the same thing.

If you had a superpower, what would it be?

I've always wanted to be able to heal people. I think I was inspired by the miracles in the Bible - how injury, disease and even death could be stopped. I also think it would be really cool to be able to control time. Science can do so much with matter, but aside from time dilation/length contraction, time just keeps moving forward and we can do nothing but measure it.

How have you grown in your time in college?

While I have certainly grown stronger, faster and more knowledgeable, I have learned a lot of life lessons along the way that I never expected.





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