By (Ben Boynton)

For many of the rowers on the University of Alabama’s women’s rowing team, the sport is an intense physical and mental challenge. For others, it is a stepping stone to even tougher tasks.

Courtney Atkinson and Abi Palmer are both seniors on the rowing team, and they have an ambitious plan for the summer: to hike the Appalachian Trail.

While you may think that this is a plan years in the making, Atkinson says the pair came up with it a few weeks into this semester.

“We were just sitting there talking about what we want to do post-grad, and it’s something we both want to do, so we just decided right then and there to do it,” Atkinson said.

The Appalachian Trail hike is a grueling one, covering over 2,000 miles and 14 states. The duo plans to start the hike around the end of June, and hope to be done around Thanksgiving in November.

Part of the reason the two are planning to attempt this feat is a feeling common to many college seniors: neither Atkinson nor Palmer really know what they want to do after they receive their diplomas in May.

“We’ve worked for so long and have always had a clear goal our entire lives and we don’t really have a clear goal after we graduate, so we want to figure out who we really are and what we want out of life,” Atkinson said.

The two both want to hike the trail for the physical challenge. As rowers, they believe that they are in great physical condition, and that they are more prepared to accomplish their goals because of that.

“Hiking is a very different thing from rowing, so it will be hard at first, but we are very physically fit so I think we will catch on to it pretty quickly because we already have the stamina and muscle,” Atkinson said.

The rowing team does a lot of endurance and stamina training that will help Atkinson and Palmer in their quest. Coach Larry Davis said the team does a lot of distance work and cardiovascular training in practice.

Mental strength and discipline are also two important factors in attempting something so challenging, two things that Davis tries to instill in his rowers.

“You have to be persistent, and you have to be tenacious. Certainly those are things that rowing teaches, and I think will have them well prepared,” Davis said.

Atkinson and Palmer relish the physical challenge the Appalachian Trail will bring, yet also appreciate the chance to learn about themselves. It isn’t just a physical journey for the soon-to-be college graduates, but a mental and personal journey as well.

“It’ll be a good time to rest my mind and work through things I’m not sure about. I’m hoping that it’ll help me figure out what I want to be,” Palmer said.

Before this journey, Atkinson and Palmer look to finish their rowing careers on a high note, which continue Saturday in the Head of the Charles Regatta in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports