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July 24, 2022

New Saint Andrews Rowing Team Brings Home Silver Medal

In the early morning hours of Friday, May 13, 2022, the New Saint Andrews Collegiate Rowing Team piled into a Prius and a pick-up truck loaded with three boats. The 6-person team, their coach, and a junior rower along for the ride drove 2,600 miles from Moscow, ID, to participate in a National Rowing Championship in Oak Ridge, TN.

The championship, known as a regatta, is held annually by the American Collegiate Rowing Association (ACRA). From May 20 to May 22, over 300 young men and women from nearly 70 teams competed with each other, representing small schools like NSA, as well as large, well-known universities like Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, Rutgers, and Purdue.

With stiff competition from dozens of excellent rowers, there were no easy victories at the 2022 regatta. But the New Saint Andrews team had trained hard in the months leading up to the event, and they were ready to leave everything on the water. The six competing team members—Talis Meyer, Ben Rice, Josh Grabinsky, Toby Mains, Lillian Tate, and Zach Ewell—had been working with head coach Bob Ewell at Spring Valley Reservoir at the base of Moscow Mountain to build up their speed and endurance and to perfect their rowing technique. They had also undergone a rigorous weightlifting and conditioning program using a range of equipment that includes barbells, stationary bikes, rowing machines, and SkiErgs.

As any NSA rower will tell you, the sport is not for the faint of heart. Each race demands the utmost from the athletes. To compete at the collegiate level, you have to develop gargantuan lung capacity, capable of fueling all-out exertion over a 2,000-meter (1.24-mile) sprint. And with some rowers propelling themselves at over 15 mph, competitors must have not only muscular endurance but near-Herculean leg and back strength. In fact, some Olympic-level rowers have been able to demonstrate greater leg power than Olympic weightlifters.

That’s not to mention the mental demands of racing. After the first 500 meters, your legs feel like they’re on fire from lactic acid build-up, and your chest feels like it’s going to explode from gulping gallons of oxygen every minute. To maintain pace and output for the next 1,500 meters, you have to block out all thoughts of pain and simply focus on the next stroke of the oars. Few sports require such a demanding combination of strength, stamina, and mental fortitude.

The 2022 regatta began on Friday, May 20. Zach Ewell competed in the first round of men’s singles. Coming 4th out of 24 racers, he moved on to the Saturday semifinals and won his heat. In the finals on Sunday, he came in 4th, displaced by a super-super senior who was allowed to compete after the 2020 regatta was canceled due to COVID-related restrictions. On Saturday, the men’s quad team, comprised of Talis, Ben, Josh, and Toby, managed to take 30 seconds off of their previous race time, which is no small feat. Lillian Tate was able to move on to the women’s single semifinals, which took place on Saturday. After she came in 2nd in her heat, she moved on to the Sunday finals, where she made the podium by coming in 2nd place overall.

With a silver medal to their name, the team returned to Moscow, ready to start training in August for the 2023 regatta. Since the 2021-22 school year began, their numbers have already doubled. For the 2022-23 year, they have six new freshman who have reached out indicating interest in the program, two of whom have already begun training with the veterans. When next year’s regatta rolls around, they’ll be ready to take the race lanes by storm.