Competition Not Lightweight for Rowing Duo
Tarnawski, Hickey to compete at junior nationals
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
For many of the participants, this week's U.S. Rowing Junior Nationals are a significant finish line.
For Dorothy Tarnawski and Katie Hickey, the competition at Oak Ridge, Tenn., is a significant forward step on a relatively new adventure. No matter how they fare on Melton Hill Lake, these Vancouver Lake Crew members still have time to find the perfect stroke.
Both are Columbia River High School students and relatively new to the sport. Tarnawski is a junior and Hickey a sophomore, so the friends can team up for one more season. This season will finish at the nationals because Hickey and Tarnawski took second place in the lightweight women's doubles varsity race during the U.S, Rowing Northwest Junior Championships, held last month on Vancouver Lake.
Each is in her second season with Vancouver Lake Crew, but the signs of success started to bloom last summer when Tarnawski and Hickey started rowing together.
"We've become really alike," Tarnawski said. "We have a lot of strength and we've been really focused on this and challenge each other."
At first, they rowed together as a pair, meaning each had one oar in the water. They switched to lightweight doubles sculling, with two oars apiece, when coach Alan Stewart suggested the competition would be more their speed.
Vancouver Lake Crew has a history of sending at least one boat to the annual junior nationals. This is the ninth time in 11 years VLC has been represented at the nationals. But usually it's a veteran rower or rowers who qualify.
Stewart, the VLC head coach, said 2012 was a building year for his high school program. His roster was dominated by novice rowers with exciting potential. To send Tarnawski and Hickey to nationals is a bonus, the coach said.
Hickey and Tarnawski are one of about 20 boats in the lightweight women's doubles. They will race Friday through Sunday.
To prepare, they have been training twice daily for weeks. They hit Vancouver Lake for a 5:30 a.m. training session, then return after school for an additional two hours of training.
That commitment is worth it, even when the conditions are not inviting.
"It's really peaceful on the water," Hickey said. "Even in the rain, it's always nice."
Qualifying for nationals was nice, too. It was not much of a surprise to the girls. A win at the Covered Bridge Regatta near Eugene was a confidence boost they carried into the Northwest regionals.
Hickey and Tarnawski were among four rowers on a boat that took second place in the women's novice quad race during the 2011 regionals. That small success sprouted the inspiration to devote more time to the sport of crew, which demands both individual discipline and teamwork.
"You just have to be in the zone all the time. Focus on each stroke and try to take that perfect stroke," Hickey said.
Tarnawski has been to a national competition as a gymnast. She gave up that sport after a hip injury, and followed friend and fellow gymnast Sarah Wu to crew. Wu went to junior nationals in doubles as a high school senior last spring, so Tarnawski is again following her gymnastics friend.
Tarnawski said the anticipation is similar to what she remembers from going to nationals as a gymnast, minus the stress level.
"In rowing you just do the same stroke every time," Tarnawski said, comparing this challenge to mastering multiple skills for gymnastics.
Before hitting Vancouver Lake on Monday afternoon for one of their last training sessions, Tarnawski and Hickey said they are very excited about nationals.
They have done the training, now they need to remember to apply enough sun screen and drink enough water to handle the Tennessee weather.
"I'm hoping we do well," Hickey said. "We always have next year, too."