There’s a certain rhythm Wayland’s Kyra Patterson and Jaime Cook possess when they’re rowing.
Both seniors are not only gifted athletes, but also have a good feel for the boat and its movement. Together, the two girls representing the Wayland-Weston co-op rowing program are quite literally the best in their class in the country, and their paths to the sport say a lot about the pool from which it draws.
In high school, rowing can often pull athletes from a variety of backgrounds. Unlike many other sports, playing in early childhood isn’t a prerequisite.
Patterson grew up playing a variety of sports as a kid, from soccer to swimming. She settled on gymnastics in middle school, but an injury prevented her from continuing, so she switched to diving.
As she entered her freshman year of school, a friend recommended she give rowing a shot. She did, and now she will head to Boston University next fall to be part of the lightweight women’s rowing team.
Cook picked up the sport only a year ago. After growing tired of soccer, she took a shot at volleyball heading into her junior year but was cut after tryouts, deemed too old to learn the sport easily from scratch. As a rower, on the other hand, she started on an underclassman boat, but in no time jumped ship to the varsity.
By this summer, the two girls were competing together at the Youth Nationals in Sarasota, Fla., winning the intermediate lightweight pair title with a 7:52.083 time.
So for two young women who didn’t have rowing anywhere on their radar for much of their childhoods, the sport’s now as important to them as breathing.
For Cook, the second she stepped onto the Wayland Town Beach, where the team meets to row in Lake Cochituate, she was hooked.
“Something about the sport just immediately clicked with me,” said Cook. “I just kept going back each day wondering where it had been my entire life. We are doing these intense workouts, but we are doing it all next to each other. I realized I can’t give up; I can’t stop because all the people around me are feeling the exact same pain.
“That ability to work with other people and understand how other people are feeling, all working towards this common goal, was something that was just amazing to me . . . We all push ourselves to our limits and then fall into a pile of sweat afterwards.”
Girls’ varsity coach and Wayland-Weston program director Mike Baker has as good a feel for the pulse of rowing as anyone in the region. Since rowers are “club teams” outside the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, which sets the rules for most high school sports in the state, teams can compete in any season they wish. Longer-distance races take place in the fall, with shorter races in the spring and summer. In the winter there are team workouts, but it is not imperative for a rower to compete each season.
Baker finds, however, that some kids become so dialed into rowing that in no time they have a craving to row and practice at every opportunity.
And in doing so, they can quickly become top-notch.
‘Something about the sport just immediately clicked with me. I just kept going back each day wondering where it had been my entire life.’
“I’ve witnessed kids come in and say they haven’t” rowed before, said Baker. “They might not make it to nationals right away, say their junior year, but by their senior year they’re contenders.”
It takes a certain type of work ethic to transform like that. Because most rowers come into the sport more as raw athletes, a drive to be successful is one of the most important attributes to have. With the slew of different formats to choose from – boats have from one to eight rowers – pushing oneself with teammates can help mold a rower and help them find a niche. They just have to do the work first.
“It’s not about pure talent,” said Patterson. “[Coaches] don’t look at you in the first grade and say, ‘hey, you’re going to go to the Olympics.’ With rowing, you get out as much work in as you put in. It’s all about how hard you work and it has nothing to do with nature, it’s all about nurture. And as long as you put the hard work in, you’re going to see results.”
Through all the hard work, running, rowing, and sweat, a unique bond is created among teammates. So much so, that one thing that often keeps kids engaged in the sport is the bond they’ve formed with each other.
In Patterson and Cook’s case, after loving their time spent rowing together so much this past summer, they’ve agreed to keep competing as a team no matter where life takes them.
“We just committed,” said Patterson, “and said, ‘we are going to keep doing this and we’re going to do it for as long as we can.’ It just brought us together.”
“I’m fortunate that I‘ve been able to compete at the national level,” said Cook, “But I’m more so fortunate that I have this amazing team and amazing coach and made all these awesome friends that I wouldn’t have made otherwise if I didn’t start [rowing].”Logan Mullen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ByLoganMullen.