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Through the waves: Snoqualmie teen grows through sport of competitive rowing
When the sport of rowing seemed too much of a challenge, Abby McLauchlin refused to give up.
The Snoqualmie teen, now a junior at Mount Si High School, pushed through a personal wall, and today, she loves the sport more than ever.
“It’s made me more outgoing,” McLauchlin said. “It’s made me stronger, physically and mentally. It’s made me organize my time better.”
McLauchlin is one of about a half-dozen Mount Si students involved in the Sammamish Rowing Association, a club of crewers that serves the greater Eastside. Rowing is not a school sport, and as such is still a bit unknown among McLauchlin’s peers. But it’s becoming more well-known as word spreads about the team’s efforts.
McLauchlin was the sole Mount Si student on a crew of eight who competed Sunday, Oct. 23, at the prestigious Head of the Charles regatta in Boston, Mass.
Head of the Charles is one of the largest regattas in the world, drawing more than 8,000 rowing athletes from around the world to compete in 55 different race events, plus as many as 300,000 spectators.
McLauchlin competed in the Women’s Youth 8s, which had 75 boats competing in it. Her boat finished the 3.2 mile-course in 18.06 minutes, for a respectable 11th place finish.
“It was amazing, an awesome experience,” McLauchlin said.
In a crew, rowers face backwards, feet buckled down, sitting in sliding seats, powering their oars to a rhythm and led by a captain who faces forward. Strength aside, rowing requires a grasp of timing, and of putting your oar into the water correctly.
“Once you learn the basics, it’s not that hard. It’s muscle memory,” McLauchlin said. “You have to keep your timing and keep the technicality of rowing. Technique is a huge part of whether you are going to be a good rower or not.”
In a race, McLauchlin is all focus.
“I don’t remember anything after a race is finished,” she said. “If you can think of something in particular, you’re not rowing hard enough.”
Her favorite moment on the races, which typically run about two kilometers in the spring, longer in the fall season, is in last few hundred meters, the sprint to the finish. McLauchlin loves the final, all-out charge.
Watching the stately glide of the shells, she said it’s tough for spectators to grasp the drive and physical effort going on at the oars.
“When you’re actually a rower, you realize how much they’re dying,” she said.
Planning to row in college, McLauchlin enjoys English and Spanish classes in school. Following competition this fall, she is settling down for the off-season, which involves workouts on the rowing machine at Mount Si Sports + Fitness.
When spring begins, she’ll go back on the water, enjoying early morning rowing practice on the calm, glassy waters of Lake Sammamish. Rowing has always been a balancing act for the teen, and demands discipline to settle down and complete homework after a strenuous day.
“I’m definitely physically stronger since I started crew,” McLauchlin said. “It works your back and legs.”
In crew, teens commit long hours to the sport.
“Because you’re spending so much time, you make a lot of good friends,” McLauchlin said.
She was introduced to the sport by friends who were rowers, tried one of Sammamish Rowing Association’s Row for A Day events, and liked it. She encourages other young people who are curious about rowing to do the same.
“Go to the website, find a Row for A Day. You can get a feel for what it’s like,” McLauchlin said.
• To learn more about Sammamish Rowing Association and crew, visit sammamishrowing.org/about-sra.
• To learn more about the Head of the Charles regatta, visit www.hocr.org.