May 13, 2008
by Jeff Smith
Patricia Goodeman's time on the water throughout her career has been mixed. While she has recorded a great deal of success on the Ohio State rowing team, she has also been forced to overcome adversity and one of her greatest fears: Water.
Believe it or not, the 2008 first team All-Big Ten selection is afraid of the water. She can't swim either.
But Goodeman has not allowed those obstacles to stand in her way of success during her time at Ohio State. In a sport that started out as just an option for her at the school involvement fair when she was a freshman, Goodeman has made the most out of rowing and is focused on ending her career with a national championship.
Coming off a third-place finish at the recent Big Ten Championships, the Buckeyes are almost a lock for nationals having won the past five Central Region titles.
"We are pretty confident in our team right now and looking forward to it," she said. "No women's team has ever won an NCAA championship at Ohio State, so obviously we would like to be that team."
A native of Waterville, Ohio, located just outside of Toledo, Goodeman has improved steadily in each of her four years in Columbus and was recently awarded with All-Conference honors. She admits that particular accolade was never one of her individual goals, adding she never felt an award like that was attainable.
"It surprised me people were even paying attention," said the humble Buckeye. "I guess I just don't catch on to how well I am improving."
Improvement has been the constant theme for Goodeman, considering she never stepped near the water prior to college. She recalls her freshman year when she went to Ohio Stadium for the school involvement fair to see what programs were being offered. As she rounded the corner, she was immediately singled out by the novice rowing coach.
"She said you are going to be on the rowing team, and I said, 'You are nuts lady,'" Goodeman remembered. "I told her I couldn't swim and I was afraid of water and she didn't care."
Intrigued by her response, Goodeman attended several initial team gatherings, a compliance meeting, and even the first practice. It was a baby-step process for her, but the more she learned about the sport, the more she began to enjoy it.
Until of course it came time to get in the boat.
"We shoved off the dock and while it was only three feet deep and I was scared to death," she said. "We were surrounded by water and I panicked. I still can't answer why I did something I absolutely hate."
Goodeman went on to compare her situation to that of a pilot who hates to fly. She keeps asking herself why, yet there is something that continues to bring her back.
"I still tell my teammates, if the boat flips and we go in, you have to save my life."
One day at practice during her first year, her worst fear came true. Working in a novice boat of four rowers, Goodeman and her teammates tipped into the water. Sitting in front of a teammate who happened to be a lifeguard, Goodeman was grabbed before she hit the water and was held onto until the boat was righted.
Admitting that she still feels uncomfortable around water, Goodeman has competed like a veteran in her four years. Following her freshman year as a novice, she moved up to the Second Varsity Eight for the regular season after one of her teammates in the Buckeyes' top boat suffered an injury. The trickle-down effect resulted in a promotion for Goodeman to the Second Varsity Eight, but once the Big Ten Championships came around and the team was back to full health, Goodeman was repositioned as the leader of the First Varsity Four. Not only was the team impressive at Big Tens, but the boat finished second at the Central Region and third in the Grand Final of the NCAA Championships.
"No one ever believed in us, but we went out there and did it," she said. "I learned a lot about how to move a shell in that boat."
As a junior last year, Goodeman was promoted to First Varsity Eight and helped direct the boat to a season-opening win over top-ranked and defending national champion Princeton. The Buckeyes closed out the season in the same impressive fashion they began it by placing second in the NCAA Championship Grand Final. The runner-up result boosted the Buckeyes to third in the final team standings, which marked the best finish in school history. For her efforts, Goodeman was named the recipient of the team's Most Improved Rower award.
"That was really important to me," she said the honor. "When you go along doing what you're doing, you don't think anyone is really paying attention. I was proud that people noticed."
Truth is, throughout most of Goodeman's life, she has caught the attention of her peers in several other interesting sports. Having just played two years of high school golf, Goodeman finished second at state golf regional one season, following a successful stint on the school's bowling team. Growing up she bowled every night in one of the three leagues she belonged in, she owned seven bowling balls, and managed a 200-plus average. On top of that, she is an accomplished horseback rider as well.
And now with her rowing career coming to an end at Ohio State, one can only wonder how bittersweet of a feeling it is for Goodeman. On one hand, she is set to pen the final words in her story of becoming an impressive and improved college rower. On the other hand, she is poised to steer clear of the water for good, something she is certainly looking forward to.
Following graduation, Goodeman plans to remain in Columbus as an operations supervisor for The Limited. In the next few weeks, however, she is hoping the Buckeyes are anything but limited in their quest for the school's lucrative first women's national championship.
Should that happen, might we see her join her teammates for a celebratory dip in the lake?
We'll have to wait and see on that one, but let's hope a life jacket is nearby just in case.