Athlete Spotlight: Tracy Eisser
By Dan Brauchli • March 8, 2018
Growing up in Fair Lawn, N.J., Tracy Eisser was involved in athletics, competing in the high jump for for her high school’s track and field team. Although she found some success, she hadn’t yet found the sport that would take her to the highest competitive level.
“I did a lot of things in high school, but I was not exceptional at one of those specific things,” Eisser said. “Walking onto the rowing team at Cornell changed the trajectory of my life. If I had not gone to that informational meeting, I wouldn’t have gone to the Olympics.”
Eisser started rowing at Cornell University in the fall of 2008, after she was picked out of a crowd of incoming freshman who had to pass a campus-administered swim test.
“I’d been there for only a day or two, and then someone is now walking up to me and asking me if I wanted to be on a Division I sports team,” she said.
After falling in love with the sport, Eisser would go on to row at Cornell for four years.
Two years after her graduation, Eisser made her first senior national team and finished third in the quadruple sculls at the 2014 World Rowing Championships. Eisser said that a gold-medal finish in the same event the following year set her and Megan Kalmoe up for their recent success in the pair at the 2017 World Rowing Championships. It was in 2015 that the duo first spent significant time in a shell together.
In between the highs of 2015 and 2017, Eisser described their fifth-place finish in the quad at the 2016 Olympic Games as “just not being able to deliver.”
“Going from the high of 2015 and our performance to the low of 2016 and our finish at the Olympics, I think both of us last year , when we came back to training, were trying to move away from that,” Eisser said.
Their time training together paid off when Eisser and Kalmoe crossed the line in silver-medal position on “home water” at the 2017 championships held in Sarasota-Bradenton, Fla. Racing for a world title in the United States was not something Eisser took for granted, as the last time the championships were held in the U.S. was 1994.
“I really wanted to make the team last year and compete in Florida,” Eisser said. “That way, so many of my friends and family that have never seen me compete before could come and watch. I could share some of what I love about rowing with more people. It was cool to come into the last quarter of the race and know that the noises I heard were people cheering, and they were cheering for us.”
Eisser and Kalmoe, now veterans on the team, are looking to build off of their success and are now training together at the USTC in hopes of racing the pair again at the world championships.