August 7, 2020

Meet Emma Wheeler - Bates Women's Rowing

Courtesy of Bates Athletics

Emma Wheeler, Bates A 2020 Pocock All-America nominee and 2019 All-NESCAC First Team selection, Emma Wheeler helped the Bates women’s rowing team win three consecutive NCAA Championships in the first varsity eight during her time on campus.

“Every rower knows what it means to work relentlessly towards a common goal,” Wheeler said. “The truly unique thing about the Bates women's rowing team, though, is that the common goal, ultimately, really has nothing to do with winning a race.” 

“The common goal is for every member of the team to be their best self. We're told before every race to "be ourselves", a command, per se, that applies to all aspects of our lives, not just rowing. All my team members, former and current, embody this in their relentless effort on and off the water and inspired me every day to be the best version of myself throughout my time at Bates.” 

A three-time NESCAC All-Academic selection, Wheeler shined on the water from day one for the Bobcats. After winning an NCAA Championship as a first-year, she helped the first varsity eight set a Collegiate Eights course record at the Head of the Charles in 2017 and rowed at the bow position in 2018 when the first varsity eight won its first gold medal at the NCAA Championships in program history. 

The Bobcats repeated the feat at NCAAs in 2019 and Wheeler helped the Bates 1V win another Collegiate Eights title at the Head of the Charles last fall before the cancellation of the team’s spring season due to the COVD-19 pandemic. 

“There’s no question that as much as she cares about performing at the highest level, she cares that much more about her teammates,” Bates rowing head coach Peter Steenstra said. “Emma is such a great student-athlete because she understands work ethic, she understands how to organize her time, and she makes sure that everything she does is to the highest of her abilities.” 

A native of Paradis, Norway, Wheeler majored in French and Francophone Studies, as well as geology. She graduated Summa Cum Laude with the highest GPA (3.96) among all women’s sports varsity athletes in the class of 2020 at Bates, earning her the Milton L. Lindholm Scholar-Athlete Award. Wheeler graduated with honors in geology, working with Bates geology professor Mike Retelle on her honors thesis: “A Hydroclimate Reconstruction in the Changing High Arctic Environment, Linnédalen, Svalbard.”

Wheeler was first introduced to Bates through Professor Retelle, who was doing research in Svalbard at the same time as her father. Wheeler knew she wanted to go to a liberal arts institution, which doesn’t really exist in the Norwegian education system. Wheeler went on a recruiting visit with the rowing team and was pretty quickly convinced Bates was where she wanted to go.

“I'd like to acknowledge what a privilege it is to be able to be on an athletic team at all,” Wheeler said. “I firmly believe that with this privilege comes the responsibility, for team members and alumni alike, to take part in movements such as Black Lives Matter, and to continuously, relentlessly, use the drive so prevalent among rowers to change rowing into a more accessible and inclusive sport.”