Features & Profiles

Big Day for Gunn Rowing Alumni

By Maram Sharif ’22

Sunday the May 8th was a big day for five Gunn rowing alumni. Sean Christansen ‘21,  Julie Petrillo ’18, Sofia Trotta ’19, Ava Lee ’21, and Hannah Richards ’20 competed at the National Invitational Collegiate Regatta on Lake Quinsigamond. It was especially a proud moment for their former coach, Tim Poole; “It was very exciting to see many of my former students race with their different schools all in the same place in their First Varsity boat.” Here are some of the highlights:

Sofia Trotta ’19 coxed the Smith Women’s 1V8+. They finished 2nd in the C final with a time of 7:14.416. Sofia is a rising senior at Smith College, majoring in government and minoring in economics. Her favorite rowing memory from Gunn was racing the Head of the Charles her senior year, “It was the most challenging and enriching racing experience I have had, with weeks of practicing turns leading up to the regatta. It was this race that made me want to continue coxing in college.” She competed in eights with Guilford High School during her freshman and sophomore years which gave her a good foundation in knowing how to move bigger boats. In her junior year, she transferred to Gunn and continued to broaden her skill set by learning how to cox fours, “The opportunity to practice on Lake Waramaug, learn from extremely experienced coaches, and have access to great equipment was instrumental in shaping my high school rowing career. Having supportive teammates and coaches made all the difference in feeling comfortable to grow and develop as a coxswain, and is an impact I feel to this day now approaching my last year of coxing.”

She adds: “While the college experience has been far from normal with the pandemic taking away many collegiate seasons, I have felt nothing but gratitude. Reflecting on this season, I have felt so grateful that after four seasons away from racing I was able to go out and compete this season with three championship races under my belt! I got to go out there with my team and have fun every day in practice and on race day while working towards a team goal and bettering myself as a teammate and coxswain.”

She cannot wait to take the energy from this first collegiate spring season into her senior year. Her goals are to always have her teammates’ backs and go full send for an NCAA bid. She is looking forward to pushing her team and herself to have an incredible last year in this sport she loves.

Next up, Hannah Richards ’20 rowed two seats in the Skidmore Women’s 1V8+. They finished 4th in the C final with a time of 7:16.143. She is currently a sophomore student-athlete at Skidmore College as a Psychology Major with a Minor in Sociology. This year was her first season participating in rowing here at Skidmore, and according to her, it was one of the best decisions she made in her college career.  

She says: “Rowing at the Gunnery is something I will always think fondly about. It was such a fun sport to walk on to when I had no experience in my first year of high school.”

Hannah’s previous experiences with rowing have given her a solid foundation to enter the collegiate level, “The techniques I learned from Mr. Poole and his coaching style helped me earn a spot in the first boat as a first-year rower. I even spoke to Sean Christensen ‘21 at NIRCs, who talked about how Mr. Turner gave him an excellent technical foundation that helped him get into the first boat at Bates as a freshman. Another important aspect of rowing I learned from the Gunnery was enjoying the journey and not being too outcome-focused. Gunnery’s team always emphasized having fun and rowing your race instead of focusing on winning or losing. This mindset is something I appreciated coming into a team like Skidmore, which is in a rebuilding phase with our new Head Coach, Emanuel Valentin.”

This spring rowing season was the most successful season she had ever experienced, with Skidmore’s stats being 12:1 before the championships began (they beat twelve teams and only lost to one the whole season). She shares: “With a new coaching staff and some excelled upperclassmen to lead us this season, we finished in the Top 3 in Liberty Leagues for the first time in 17 years! Coming out of the Liberty League race, we knew that NIRCs would be our most competitive race of the season, as well as the last racing opportunity for our seniors. During the week, we had to make two changes in our lineup and adjust to a new boat before going off to NIRCs. Our first race was exciting, and we were proud of our race, but we were eager to race in the final and show everyone what we have been working on this season. In the final, My boat raced Ava Lee ‘21 (cox: William Smith) and Sofia Trotta ‘19 (cox: Smith), and it was really fun to be back on the water with some old teammates. William Smith has been a team we have battled with this season, and it is always fun to race against Ava. The final was an exciting race with the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place finishes within a few seconds of each other, after a grueling sprint to the end. It was a great way to end the season, and I look forward to seeing everyone again in the fall.”

Hannah’s future goals regarding rowing are to continue building up the program and secure the top seat in the Liberty League and hopefully get the chance to go to NCAAs, which is something her coach is gunning for. With her team culture and new coaching staff, these goals are possible, and she is excited to see where this team can go in future years. 

Other highlights of the race include:

Ava Lee ’21 coxing the William Smith Women’s 1V8+ and finishing 3rd in the C final with a time of 7:14.886, Sean Christiansen ’21 rowing bow seat in the Bates Men’s 1v8+ and finishing 4th in the grand final with a time of 6:01.306, and Julie Petrillo ’18 rowing seven seat in the Trinity Women’s 1V8+ and finishing 6th in the grand final with a time of 7:05.402.

It is clear that it was an exciting day with great racing, and great representation by our alumni. It is days like these that we truly feel that Highlander Pride. 

Photo Curtesy by Bates College
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