North Xtra: Fox Chapel girls stroke their way to U.S. rowing honors

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Fox Chapel seniors Kelly Power, Sarah Burns and Colleen Hamilton are fast on the water and quick in the classroom.

They were each named to the 2012-13 USRowing Scholastic Honor Roll.

Athletes who earn the USRowing honor roll distinction must fulfill several requirements. One is to be among the best on the waves.

For example, Fox Chapel competed in the Women's High School Junior 4+ finals at the Midwest Scholastic Rowing Championships. The regatta took place in May at Lake Harsha near Cincinnati. The Fox Chapel team earned fifth place (out of 19 in the original three heats).

To do this, the girls hauled their boat for a time of 7:01.7 in "mucky" lake conditions, according to RegattaCentral.com. All races were 1,500 meters long.

Power felt that making it to the finals at the Midwest regatta was a key factor in being selected to the honor roll.

"You have to meet certain academic standards," she explained, "and you also have to do well in the sport. You have to be successful in competing at the regional or national level."

The 2012 Midwest Scholastic Rowing Championships had entries from 45 clubs. The clubs hailed from six states -- Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

"It was actually the largest Midwest regatta they ever had," said Power.

She recalled running up and down the beach at Lake Harsha with her teammates, cheering on Fox Chapel's Freshman 8+ squad. The freshman squad came in third with a time of 6:11.900, thus qualifying for the Scholastic Rowing Association of America national competition, which took place May 25 at Cooper River near Pennsauken, N.J.

For Power, Burns and Hamilton, the Midwest event capped the list of rowing achievements they needed to be named to the honor roll.

According to USRowing.org, honorees must be rowers or coxswains for at least one year. They must also have achieved success in competitive rowing at a league or regional championship.

Power elaborated on the USRowing Scholastic Honor Roll requirements.

"You apply after your junior year to receive it as a senior," she said.

The award takes into account an athlete's entire rowing resume, as well as all transcripts through the junior year. A minimum GPA of 3.5 is required for eligibility, as well as a minimum of 1,800 on the SAT (or 27 on the ACT).

For this year's USRowing Honor Roll, 55 student athletes were selected out of 222 nominations nationwide. These nominations included both boys and girls.

Likewise, being on the USRowing Honor Roll is a high distinction that only comes to the toughest and smartest of rowers.

"It's a year-round sport," Power said. "We have head races in the fall, which are races against the clock. The spring is our main sprint season -- that's when the Midwest Scholastic Rowing Championships are. In between, we have winter training."

During winter training, rowers use machines called "ergs," named for a unit of energy in physics.

The machines are indoors, and they allow rowers to compete or train no matter what the weather.

"Right now we're actually training for the Central Biathlon," said Power. "It's 6 miles running and 7,500 meters rowing."

The event is hosted by Central Catholic High School, and will take place on Dec. 8.

For the 50 members (male and female) of the Fox Chapel rowing team, the year-round season of hard work is worth it. The Foxes get up as early as 2 a.m. on competition days, and often do not return until midnight.

The rowers must manage all of the team's equipment, as well as their own all-weather gear. But these three rowers agreed that it's a satisfying feeling when they know their boats pulled their hardest.

"It's a hard sport," said Power. "It's a whole new world."

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