April 7, 2004
Wisconsin Red and White runs through Bryanna Seifert when she is out on the water. While rowing, she has memories of family trips to Camp Randall Stadium, stories from her dad who played for the Badgers, and lessons from her uncle, a UW crew team alum, to keep her going.
"I have a lot of pride in being an athlete at UW," she says. "Being a Badger is a great opportunity, especially having my dad who loves to come see me race. It's a really cool experience for all of us to be able to share in that."
With strong family ties to the Madison campus, Seifert grew up a Badger fan. Her father, Mike, was selected out of Wisconsin by Cleveland in the 1974 NFL draft, and her uncle, Pat Litscher, was a member of the crew team from 1974-77. She made several trips to UW while growing up in Hartland, Wisconsin and is a seasoned football tailgater.
Despite her attachment to Badger athletics and the encouragement of family members, the decision to attend Wisconsin wasn't always a certainty. Seifert, who was judged 'Best Female Athlete' by her high school senior class for her performance on the basketball and soccer teams, was entertaining scholarship offers from Division-I basketball programs. None of those offers, however, seemed to fit.
"There was a lot of pressure from people like coaches and parents, because not many people turn down an opportunity for a scholarship," she says. "But none of those schools were a right fit for me. I was looking at a lot of things other than just playing basketball, I wanted to go to a place that was strong academically and had a great atmosphere. I wasn't willing to sacrifice the things that I was looking for in a college to play basketball."
After searching through long lists of colleges, Seifert found one school that kept coming to the top of the pile.
"I just couldn't say 'no' to Madison."
But the difficult decisions didn't end there. When the soccer coach leaned Seifert would be on campus in the fall of 2002, he invited her to walk onto the team. Seifert, who knew that she wanted to be a Badger student-athlete, had to decide if she wanted to continue playing soccer, or to try something new.
"I wanted to try something new!" she laughs.
That something new was the Wisconsin crew team where she currently competes on the Badgers' first Varsity Eight boat. Seifert has found success in the boat's fifth seat, making the varsity boat in just her first year out of novice competition. The middle seats (3, 4, 5, and 6) are usually reserved for the squad's most powerful rowers.
Becoming a rower is not an easy task for Seifert or any other athlete. In the fall and spring seasons, the team is on the water early in the morning and then go back in the afternoon for an extra workout. Seifert and her teammates believe in the attitude, "the more cardio, the better."
In the winter months when frozen Wisconsin lakes keep the team on land, the squad trains on stationary rowing machines, also known as 'ergs.'
"You put your body through so much, but it makes it that much more rewarding in the end, especially when you're going through it with teammates. We really bond through those tough workouts."
The hard work put in on the 'ergs' helped lead Wisconsin to early success at its most recent competition in San Diego, nothing the teams' best finish at the event since 1997-98.
"I was a really amazing trip and we did really well. We beat teams that were ranked nationally. Our whole team is excited to bring the tradition back to Wisconsin and have a lot of fun."
Now, in addition to Badger football games, members of the Seifert family travel to Madison and beyond, lending their support to the crew team as well. Mike Seifert was even in San Diego, cheering on his daughter.
There's something about the town that drew Bryanna in, and there will continue to be something about Madison that pulls she and her family back. And after making difficult, career-altering decisions which landed her in the waters of the state capitol, Bryanna's Badger pride shows she has no regrets.
"It took weeks and weeks to decide what I wanted to do, and now I'm very, very happy."