Koenigsfeld goes from running to rowing

Junior Hunter Koenigsfeld dropped one college sport and joined another, forging a new path for herself and the Iowa rowing team.


Michael Guhin

The Iowa varsity 8 crew looks to their supporters on the shore as they row back to the dock at the end of the first session of a women’s rowing meet on Lake MacBride on Saturday April 13, 2019.

Sarah Altemeier, Sports Reporter

The Iowa rowing team’s 1 Varsity 8 boat has demonstrated it’s a force, and Hunter Koenigsfeld has played a key role.

Koenigsfeld wasn’t always a member of the Hawkeye rowing squad, though. The junior ran cross-country and track in high school and originally wanted to continue running in college. She walked on to the Hawkeye cross-country team in 2016.

But the sport didn’t turn out to be her thing.

In February of her freshman year, Koenigsfeld quit the cross-country team. After leaving the program, the Hawkeye didn’t stop being active. She woke up at 5 a.m. every day to either lift or swim.

She knew she wanted to do something else. Just two short months after leaving the cross-country team, she joined Iowa rowing.

The Cedar Rapids native set up a meeting with head coach Andrew Carter. After the meeting concluded, Koenigsfeld left and called right back. She was in.

Rowing gives Koenigsfeld the team aspect of sports that cross-country couldn’t quite give her, she said.

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“Cross-country is a very individual sport as far as sports go,” she said. “You do have your team, and your teammates do rack up a certain amount of points throughout the race, but primarily, you are thinking about yourself and how you can do better yourself to then better your team. But with rowing, it’s 100 percent team-oriented. Everything you do has to be exact with the people in front of you and the people behind you. I think something that’s so team-oriented like that, really holds people accountable and makes the really, really difficult times more enjoyable.”

Now, in her second year of rowing, Koenigsfeld has been invited to the U23 national-team training camp for a chance to get a spot on the squad.

When she joined rowing, she jumped right into it. With her success, rowing and school — she majors in nursing — became her life.

“After the adjustment, I focused on just school and just rowing, and it made things a lot more enjoyable,” Koenigsfeld said. “With that, I have worked really hard, and so I’m not particularly astounded or shocked that I got invited just because I was there for every moment of all the work that I put in to get there. But when you think about it from an outside perspective, it does look kind of crazy. Two years ago, I didn’t even know how to row, but it feels like I’ve been doing it for a while. I’m not particularly shocked, but excited is what I can really say I feel about it.”

Before the national camp, though, she and the Hawkeyes will turn their focus as a team to the postseason.

“[The team aspect is] why I ended up liking rowing more than cross-country,” Koenigsfeld said. “It really keeps you accountable and focused, when it’s all together and it works well, it makes that moment even better because you can share it with a lot of people.”