Crew skips out on nationals


From left: Coach Jesse Tate, Rachel Nieland, Madison Forbis, Gillian Boyce, Caroline Suddath, Allie Snow and coach Alex Thome pose for a picture after the FSRA Sweep States. (Photo courtesy Caroline Suddath)

Amber Shemesh

Only the top three scholastic boats in Florida qualified for nationals. Hillsborough’s Junior Women’s Four was one of them.

“When we got to the finish line, we were neck and neck with this [other] boat. If we’d been one second slower, we wouldn’t have qualified. So we really had to fight for it,” sophomore rower Caroline Suddath said of the state competition that qualified the boat for nationals.

Rachel Nieland, the coxswain of the boat, said that she “never thought that something like that would happen” for her. Nationals are held in New Jersey in late May; however, the team won’t be attending.

The boat consists of junior Gillian Boyce, sophomore Allie Snow, freshman Madison Forbis and sophomores Nieland and Suddath. They’d practiced several times before racing in states; however, they were still a relatively new boat, so finding out that they qualified for nationals was “extra special,” said Snow. The initial excitement among the team turned to disappointment after the boat collectively agreed to not go to nationals.

“We were kinda a boat divided- half of us, Allie and Madison really wanted to go, along with our coxswain Rachel. Gillian and I were kinda apprehensive about it,” said Suddath, “We decided that we weren’t gonna go. It was really upsetting cause we all really wanted to, but financially it was really expensive, and we weren’t really prepared, and Allie was injured. The negatives outweighed the positive, and we were just trying to be realists and understand that we would have another chance in another year.”

Unlike the rest of the rowers in the boat, this is Boyce’s second time qualifying for nationals. From her prior experience, she said that nationals is an “experience to appreciate,” and that the training leading up to the event is intense. As a junior, Boyce was also concerned with increasing amounts of schoolwork.

Another reason the boat is not to go to nationals is Snow’s injury. Snow was born with hip dysplasia, meaning her hip socket doesn’t fully cover her upper thighbone. “My hip is deformed, so it hurts every time I move, so rowing is hard.”

First year rower Forbis is also upset about the decision not to go to nationals, and she thinks the team could’ve done well. “It was obviously nationals, so it would be a good way to show off what we could do,” she said, “[But] it would be in New Jersey, and if you don’t qualify for the next day, you can just get kicked out. Also, exams were coming up, so a lot of people in the boat had stuff to do.”

Nieland was extremely angry at first. She felt like she was being deprived of an experience that she should’ve had. Eventually, it turned into sadness, and she said gradually she’ll get over it.

“Next year, if we qualify for nationals,” Nieland said, “we’re definitely going.”