Iowa Alumni Magazine | February 2007 | People

World Class Rower: Michelle Trannel

By Kelly Stavnes
After a fifth-place finish in the 2006 World Rowing Championships, Michelle Trannel now trains for a spot on the olympic team.

Michelle Trannel Photo: Joel W. Rogers

Each morning before sunrise, Michelle Trannel takes a seat in the rowboat and plunges her oars into the frigid waters of Puget Sound. She rows for six hours a day to maintain the solid physique of a top athlete—a commitment that's distinguished her in the international waters of global competition.

Trannel, 05BSE, lives in Seattle and spends much of her time at the Pocock Rowing Center, training to re-qualify for the U.S. National Rowing Team. Last year, she became the first UI rower to earn a place on the squad and experience the adrenaline-charged thrill of competition among elite athletes from 64 countries at the World Rowing Championships in Eton, England.

It was a dream that few people in her sport ever achieve. As her team—the lightweight women's quadruple sculls—breathlessly crossed the finish line on Dorney Lake, Trannel felt her heart pump wildly when she learned she'd placed fifth in the world. 

"It was so surreal," she says. "I couldn't believe I had just competed and placed against some of the best rowers in my sport."

Trannel has certainly made remarkable strides since the day she walked on to the UI rowing team her freshman year. By her sophomore year, she was on the varsity squad, and she earned all-Big Ten honors throughout her college career. Following graduation, Trannel secured a spot at the Pocock rowing club for athletes interested in the national team. Within a year, she emerged as one of the best American rowers and secured a berth to the Worlds in England.

The impressive finish in the 2006 competition inspired Trannel to push for even greater heights, and she's placed a potential career in biomedical engineering on hold to reach her athletic goals. Because she must fund her own overseas travel, Trannel balances a full-time job as a test engineer in a laboratory with her intense training schedule. She also has her sights set on the 2008 U.S. Olympic team.

Despite the sacrifices and high demands, Trannel has no second thoughts about her decisions. She's simply pursuing her dreams. "I knew if I didn't go for it, I would have regrets," she says. "I don't want to live my life like that."