All in a day’s row
Heralded Winter Park girls head to Lake Monroe.
Special to the Sentinel
November 16, 2006
With 26 state championships since 1971, the Winter Park High School crew team has reached a pinnacle matched by only a handful of high-school sports programs.
The Wildcats’ skill and power will be on display in the waters of Lake Monroe Saturday in the second annual Head of the St. Johns Regatta at the Sanford RiverWalk. Racing begins at 7:30 a.m. More than 100 teams from across the nation will race, starting in 30-second intervals.
Teams will row 5 kilometers (3.1 miles); they’ll race against the clock, not each other.
The St. Johns Regatta will include divisions for juniors, high-school students and adults. The competition will feature several teams from area schools, including Lake Brantley, Lyman, Edgewater and Boone. Yet none of these schools has accomplished anything close to the likes of the Winter Park girls.
After winning the state championship last year for the 11th consecutive season, Winter Park’s Varsity 8 had a strong showing at the national championships in Saratoga, N.Y., placing third overall.
Winter Park’s varsity girls team consists of eight rowers and one coxswain. A coxswain — or cox, for short — steers the boat and plays the role of a “motivational speaker” during the race. She has a headset microphone and talks to the girls through three speakers placed throughout the boat.
Senior Bianca Wieczorek, who has participated in the U.S. Women’s Junior National Development Camp, is one of the best in the nation. Along with steering the boat and motivating the girls, she will read out the strokes per minute and speed analysis provided by an on-board computer.
“My job is to encourage the girls to continue a fast pace and make sure we keep speed at a good rate,” Wieczorek said. “I’ll try to yell at them a little bit and get them to row to the best they can.”
As a cox, she never will lay her hand on an oar, but Wieczorek must continue to stay in elite shape.
“We push ourselves tremendously in our land workouts every day,” she said.
The team practices six days a week, usually for three hours. Coach Mike Vertullo tries to vary his team’s conditioning by combining different on- and off-water workouts.
“They’ll go on the water for about an hour and row hard, then get back on land and run, lift weights and train on the rowing machines called ergs,” Vertullo said.
The erg, short for ergometer, can measure a rower’s strokes per minute as well as her split time. Senior co-captain Amanda Grady said the erg machines have raised the teams’ level of endurance and physical toughness.
“You push yourself until you hit the wall on the erg,” Grady said. “It really helps us become better rowers, because we become stronger in the water.”
The Winter Park crew team recently has purchased 40 of the machines to further their land training.
“Rowing in a 1,500-meter speed race is like the equivalent of sprinting on foot for five minutes; it’s not easy. We all pretty much drop after the race is over,” Grady said.
Despite that, senior co-captain Rebecca Shoemaker said the actual race is the ultimate reward for the countless hours of hard work that go into a season.
“My best friends are inside my boat, and when we come out on top, the reward is tremendous,” she said.
Head of the St. Johns Regatta
WHO: More than 1,000 rowing competitors from across the nation.
WHAT: A 5-kilometer rowing competition against the clock.
WHERE: Lake Monroe, the Sanford RiverWalk, Downtown Sanford.
WHEN: Saturday, 7:30 a.m.-1:10 p.m.
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