Former island rower wins bronze medal for University of Michigan in Big Ten championships

Micki Johns, a 2011 Bainbridge High School graduate, received a bronze medal in the Big Ten Rowing Championships while rowing for the University of Michigan
Micki Johns, a 2011 Bainbridge High School graduate, received a bronze medal in the Big Ten Rowing Championships while rowing for the University of Michigan's first novice (freshman) eight boat.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Anne Ackenhusen

Washington’s loss has certainly been Michigan’s gain.

Micki Johns, a 2011 Bainbridge High School graduate, received a bronze medal in the Big Ten Rowing Championships, where she rowed in the University of Michigan’s first novice (freshman) eight boat.

Though rival Ohio State took first, being one of the top finishers was still sweet, she said.

“It was very satisfying to get third after racing so many other good crews,” said Johns, who takes the 4 seat on the boat.

Overall, the Wolverines women’s rowing team placed first at the Big Ten Championships in Indianapolis, Ind. and second at the 2012 NCAA Championships in New Jersey.

Johns, the daughter of Anne Ackenhusen and Mike Johns, was recruited to row at University of Michigan. The University of Washington and the University of Southern California also came calling.

She graduated from BHS after rowing for 1 1/2 years with Bainbridge Island Rowing. Her older sister, Annie, was a walk-on for the Huskies, and got her into the sport.

Success followed fast; in her novice year at Bainbridge Island Rowing, her boat took third place at regionals.

Her time there, she said, was essential in learning the mechanics of the stroke.

When the time came to commit, Johns decided to Go Blue.

“My family jokes about it,” she said.

For Johns, the University of Michigan was a chance to balance athletics with her perfect field of study: engineering.

“I’ve always been interested in math and science. I’ve never really been an English or a history person; my mind was in math and science.”

A major in environmental engineering is her focus now. And though she wants to return to the Northwest after college, she said she’s very interested in serving in the Peace Corps.

“I’ve been so fortunate in my life; I want to help other people, “she said.

“It will let me get immersed into another culture and a whole new way of life, and use my engineering degree to help other people.”

Johns is currently in a rowing camp at the University of Michigan to prepare for tryouts in the fall. This week, that mean’s getting on the road at 5:45 a.m. for the drive to the boathouse.

“It’s fine, because you are getting up for a reason,” she said.

It’s not so bad, she insisted. Afterward, when practice is done, everyone goes home for a second breakfast and a two- to three-hour nap.

Tryouts will be a new ordeal for Johns come fall.

Previously, rowing on the novice team was a step to varsity. But with the success of the rowing program at Michigan, the ranks of athletes coming out for the team has grown greatly.

For Johns, she remembers the tough selection process she went through to get onto the winning boat this past season; at the beginning of her novice year, there were more than four boat’s worth of rowers.

It made everyone work harder. Some lasted, many didn’t. Some boats did well, some not.

In the end, there was still a competitive but friendly rivalry among the rowers.

“I just like how everyone gets along,” Johns said. “We’re almost like one big family.”

“I feel like most of my best friends I met through rowing,” she said. “We are competitive, but we all want the best boat to go.”

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