Rowing their way to top universities

By Astha Agarwal
Published: December 2010

As the seconds count down, senior Sam Zoloth steadies his oars and focuses on the race ahead. He sees nothing, thinks of nothing, but the course he must traverse. As the referee blares the whistle, Zoloth and his fellow rowers are off – and headed for college.
Zoloth, like many other students at South, participates in crew. In light of his long participation in the sport, he has been speaking with coaches from Wesleyan, Bowdoin, Dartmouth, Skidmore, and the University of Pennsylvania about recruitment. His current position marks a recent trend among students: in the past few years, crew has become a major avenue for South seniors to gain acceptance to college.
According to Athletic Director Scott Perrin, the small number of high school rowers is a main cause of the surge in recruitment.
“Colleges need rowers, he said. “There are thousands of football players; there are thousands of basketball players; [but] there are not thousands of rowers.
Zoloth believes that crew has been receiving more and more attention from high school students.
“People are discovering how useful it is for colleges, he said. “What got me started was that it would be good for a lot of colleges, but then I loved the intensity and the competition, the spirit, [and] the teamwork.
He also added that crew is now being passed down as an interest between siblings. “My sister and my dad both row, and that got me sort of interested, he said.
Senior Jenny Wong agrees. “I started crew the fall of my freshman year because my brother did it before me and he really liked it.
Wong is a coxswain for Community Rowing Inc. in Brighton and devotes about 15 hours a week to crew. “I have a special position on the boat¦ I steer, I make decisions, I motivate the crew, and I run practices, she said.
Wong has been recruited for crew by Dartmouth College, Stanford University, and Harvard University.
South does not currently have a crew team, so students who want to participate in the sport join outside clubs and rowing teams.
“Club sports provide kids a balance where they’re not necessarily competing with their school. They have a little bit more time flexibility and they like rowing; it’s not offered here, so they go that way and get the attention of national universities, Perrin said.
As of now, there are no plans for a crew team at South. According to Perrin, the removal of existing sports is a greater concern than the addition of a crew team. In any case, not very many students are able to commit themselves to crew due to high expenses.
The students who become reasonably good rowers, however, are very likely to be scouted by colleges, for several reasons. Stacey Rippetoe, Head Coach of Boston University Women’s Rowing, said that some of the things she looks for in students are a “long, lean frame, good erg scores which show strong cardiovascular fitness, and positive recommendations from coaches. “We need people who like to work hard and who are coachable, she said.
John Pojednic, Head Coach of Northeastern University Men’s Rowing, looks for “unique young men who have demonstrated a passion for something challenging over time.
According to Northeastern University Head Women’s Rowing Coach Joseph Wilhelm, coaches look for students to recruit both nationally and internationally.
Rippetoe receives contact information for all athletes that try out for the US Junior National Team, in addition to recommendations from coaches. She added, however, that the “majority of athletes in [the] program seek [them] out.

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