The Crew Crew

The NA Rowing Team is not well known, but they deserve to be.

The NA Rowing team at their Head of the Ohio regatta last spring.

Lindsay Feltz

The NA Rowing team at their Head of the Ohio regatta last spring.

Claire Majerac, Opinions Editor

When I was in sixth grade, my English teacher had a poster in her classroom that said, “There’s no I in TEAM,” with a photo of a boat full of rowers racing down a body of water. While my sixth grade self thought it was corny and lame, I have now come to the realization that there truly is not a more team-oriented and technical sport than rowing.

North Allegheny Rowing has been around far longer than my high school career, yet I had never paid attention to it until my sister joined the team a few years ago. While the team is relatively unknown, they have had lots of success throughout this year.

“I would say that the Rowing Team is performing very well this year,” said the senior women’s team co-captain Alexandra Junko. “Our team is relatively young, meaning that a lot of the roster is constituted of underclassmen — we have quite the powerhouse of novices this year.”

As with any team, the attitude of the athletes is almost as important as the work ethic and determination. 

Everyone seems happy to be at practice,” said junior stroke seat Aine Ridenour. “I think the team is doing a great job staying positive and keeping everyone safe during the pandemic, and really putting in the work to get better.”

Rowing can be classified as a year-round sport, with fall, winter, and spring seasons all featuring a different type of regatta. The fall season consists of longer distance racing, with regattas being 4,500 to 6,000 meters long. This season typically begins two weeks after school starts. After fall comes winter training, which senior Abby Bakkenist likes to joke about.

“Winter is the season that [makes me] question why I joined this sport,” she said.

This season involves practices that run from 5-7 PM at NAI from Monday to Thursday. Rowers train using ergometers (rowing machines), free weights to strength train, and cardio aerobic activities such as stationary biking and running. This winter season is used to train for the spring sprint season, which are typically 1,500 to 2,000 meters long.

“Spring regattas are much more stressful,” said Junko, “but coming off of the winter training season, the team is conditioned to race harder and faster.”

With different seasons and different schedules shifting at odds points in the year, members of the team have to be diligent about their time management and organization. Senior boys’ team member Micah Witzel wakes up early to fit in his busy schedule, and does not even get home twelve hours later.

“Most days, I wake up at 5:00 AM,” Witzel said, “After getting ready, I drive to church class before going to NASH. After school, I spend between an hour to two hours on homework, drive to practice at around 4:00, and get home at between 7:15 – 7:45 PM.”

Junko also has an early morning routine, even with an early workout built in.

Most days, I try [to] get in some steady state before school, so I might wake up around 5:15am and do a light steady state workout on the ergometer in my basement or jog around my neighborhood for 20-30 minutes. Then, I carry out the school day as usual,” she said.

However, typically the rowing athletes find that having practice at the end of the day is less of a stress factor than one would think.

“When I am stressed, I can use the build up of anger [towards] rowing to help me work harder,” said sophomore stroke seat Lorelei Schreiber.

Not every high school in the western Pennsylvania area has a rowing team, making travel for competitions a necessary aspect of the rowing program at North Allegheny. Regattas are typically held on weekends and can range from one to three days. Longer weekend regattas result in rowers not getting home until late on a Sunday night, yet they continue to love to travel with their friends.

“My favorite part about rowing is the travel,” said sophomore coxswain Evie Disque. “This past season I got to go to Cleveland, Parkersburg, and even Boston with the team.”

Other rowers enjoy different aspects of the sport, though. Senior Wyatt Skopov-Normane enjoys the hard work and dedication needed for the sport above all else.

“My favorite part is in the middle of a race, when you can tell you are pushing yourself as hard as possible,” Skopov-Normane said, “My least favorite part of rowing is the rowing machine.”

When on the water, crew boats often look like they glide with ease. But this could not be farther from the truth. Rowing is one of the most technical and precise sports, as one crew member out of sync could result in a loss.

“Rowing is harder than other sports because of how standardized it is. Every single athlete rows with almost the exact same form, different only by small things, and the boats are all the same,” said senior women’s team co-captain Ashley Zeman. “Races are the same distance, and the only thing that you can do is row harder. Learning the rowing stroke and being confident on the water is also difficult just because of the knowledge that you could flip at any moment.”

Seniors Charlotte Bentrim, Rachel Lessure, and Alexandra Junko have plans to continue their rowing career into college.

“I am going to be a coxswain for the Drexel Rowing team in college,” said Bentrim.

Bentrim recalls a tender memory when she and her partner qualified for a final race at a national regatta.

“Rachel Lessure and I qualified for the grand finals in our double [boat] at SRAAs, or Scholastic Nationals. I remember finishing(and being dead) and realizing that we were third out of six and we qualified. We were both in shock that we qualified and I think we just started laughing in the boat after we finished,” she said.

The team’s constant hard work pushes them closer and closer together. They can be seen in the cafeteria after school talking, laughing, and doing homework together. Even from an ordinary person’s perspective, their bond and fondness for each other are clear.

“Rowing is something anyone can get into at any time. It doesn’t matter if you’re short or tall, male or female because there is something that you can do on this team,” Zeman said. “It’s is a lifelong sport, I have had the pleasure to row with people in their 80’s and see how this sport changes lives and truly is something you never can forget.”