May 26—GRAND RAPIDS — At the start of the spring rowing season Isabelle Baumann, Abby Rockwood, Megan Lautner, Emma Ellis and Samantha Thoma had never been in a boat together.
Three months later the group of TC Tritons rowers became the program’s first boat to win an individual state championship when they claimed the Varsity Women’s Four at Riverside Park in Grand Rapids on Saturday.
The state champions were one of seven boats that qualified for the finals for the Tritons, each of which placed inside the top five and helped lead the team to its best finish.
“This was by far our best season. We really changed our training plans up on water and the kids have responded very well to it all season,” said Tritons head coach Chris Bott. “They said that they felt like they were getting better workouts on the water and they were more prepared for racing.”
The Tritons finished as runner-up as a team without having actual competition before the meet.
The Scholastic Rowing Association of Michigan’s Division 2 State Championship regatta was the first sanctioned competition the team entered this year and was the first regatta any of the rowers participated in since 2019.
All competitions and state finals were canceled in 2020 because of COVID-19 restrictions. The Tritons only participated in a couple small-scale scrimmages over the last couple of months and were unable to have more than two people in a boat until this spring.
The last month was nothing but practice for the Tritons.
Coming back from such a long layoff from competition added extra fuel to the fire for Rockwood.
“It was definitely a struggle getting back into it after a long break from no regattas, but it also made it 10 times more exciting,” Rockwood said. “Just getting out there and really having the chance to grow with your friends again and just being with each other is really motivating.”
The Tritons posted their best finish with one of the smallest teams in program history. The squad normally fields anywhere from 35-50 rowers each season and were down to only 20 this spring after some chose not to participate.
The Women’s Varsity Four team had seen only one of the competitors at the regatta before Saturday. An added challenge of racing against unknown competitors and subpar weather conditions only made it tougher for the Tritons.
“We were pretty unfamiliar with our other opponents, which I think definitely helped to motivate us because we didn’t necessarily know what their sprints were like or basically their whole execution of their race plan,” Baumann said. “I think going into it that was definitely a factor that helped us to really dig deep and push through.”
Baumann, a junior at TC West, and her boat mates didn’t expect to come away with a state championship after such a long layoff, but coming back and winning the title was worth the wait.
“We had been working towards that regatta the whole season so just being able to have a really successful turnout from not just our boat, but the whole team was really fun to see,” Baumann said. “Especially since this is the first year we’ve placed a lot of boats in the final.”
Thoma, a senior coxswain from TC Central who committed to Michigan State, is the only member of the boat who won’t return next season. Rockwood is a junior at Central while Lautner, Ellis and Baumann are all juniors at TC West and will be back in the same boat to defend their title next season.
The Tritons had their Women’s Varsity Double team of Alyssa Masiewicz and Lydia Derks place third. The Women’s Novice Four team of Ainsley Bielman, Abby Klepper, Lily LaFaive, Penelope Heiges and Nola Raven place fifth. Ellis placed fourth in the Women’s Varsity Singles race and Joe Locricchio placed fourth in the Men’s Varsity Singles.
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