New assistant coaches embrace roles on Iowa rowing team

The Hawkeyes added Megan Fitzpatrick and Lowell McNicholas in the months leading up to the season.


Braden Ernst

Iowa assistant rowing coach Megan Fitzpatrick speaks to her team during a rowing practice on Monday, April 11, 2022.

Jake Olson, Sports Reporter

The Iowa rowing team has already competed in three meets this year: One dual-formatted event with Yale and Harvard, the Sunshine State Invitational, and the Pac-12 Invite.

The Hawkeyes have won two Big Ten Boat of the Week honors in 2022. Iowa’s First Varsity Eight and First Varsity Four boats won the award in back-to-back weeks. The Hawkeyes’ First Varsity Four team won the Sunshine State Invitational’s grand finale.

“We have grown a lot the past two weeks,” junior Heidi Hines said. “We don’t get a lot of water time while we are in season like right now. When we are out on the water, we have to continue to work and make big jumps like we are doing right now.”

Much of the Hawkeyes’ success can be attributed to their new coaching staff. Alongside head coach Jeff Garbutt, who assumed his current role on Oct. 25, Megan Fitzpatrick and Lowell McNicholas have been guiding the Hawkeyes for the last four months.

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Fitzpatrick was a graduate assistant coach at Iowa from 2014-16. She was promoted to full-time assistant status in 2017 — a position she remained in until 2019.

“Fitzpatrick worked with us previously and is one of the rising stars in rowing coaching,” Garbutt said. “She is an athlete-driven coach who is really good with our younger rowers. She is just great for any young women athlete we have here.”

Fitzpatrick was an assistant coach at the United States Naval Academy between her stints at Iowa.

“It has been really good to come back and see things in a different way,” Fitzpatrick said. “The seniors were freshmen when I left, so it has been awesome to see how much they have developed over the years.”

McNicholas comes to Iowa from the University of Wisconsin, where he was a volunteer assistant from 2015-21. McNicholas was a letter-winning Badger rower in 2012 and 2013.

“McNicholas was at another Big Ten school before this, so he knows Big Ten players and coaching,” Garbutt said. “There will be no learning curve with him. He will be very important for strengthening our brand as a program.”

Fitzpatrick and McNicholas were hired in November and December, respectively. Despite that, the pair has already started to make an impact at Iowa.

“It has been really good so far with a lot of positivity, seeing new coaching techniques,” Hines said. “We are just really focusing on us as individuals and as a team. I have seen a lot of community growth in this team.”

Iowa’s coaching staff is rounded out by Katie Pearson, a graduate assistant, and Katie Thurstin, an assistant coach.

“It just makes my job a lot easier to have a great coaching staff around us,” Garbutt said. “It is important to build a great coaching staff around me as a head coach.”

Three regular season meets stand between the Hawkeyes and the 2022 Big Ten Championships, which will begin on May 15. The NCAA Rowing Championships will be contested May 27-29.