Crew races to nationals


Rachel Nieland, Savion Fordham, Nick Jeske, Luke Jeske and Andrew Schweitzer practice rowing on the Hillsborough River in preparation for Nationals. The boys junior four will be competing May 27 in Nashport, Ohio. (Harmony Tarpein)

One boat on crew is headed to Nationals.
Five members are competing in the boys junior four 1500 meter against 24 other boats on May 27 in Nashport, Ohio. To qualify for the 2016 Scholastic Rowing Association of America Regatta, they needed to be in the top three of their division at the Sweep State Regatta.
The boys junior four is composed of sophomore Andrew Schweitzer, freshmen Savion Fordham and Nick Jeske and junior Luke Jeske. Rachel Nieland, also a junior, serves as coxswain. To qualify for Nationals, the boat had to compete at Grand Finals, which is composed of both club and school teams. They finished in almost 5:30 and came in fourth place overall. However, they were still able to qualify for Nationals because clubs are not allowed to compete in the National SRAA Regatta. “[Nationals is] going to be a tough race so we need to be the strongest and we displayed that at states,” Fordham said.
Fordham rows an openweight junior double with Luke Jeske. The pair competed at Sculling States but did not qualify for Nationals. They finished sixth in Grand Finals in just over 6:00. In order to qualify for Nationals, the duo would have needed to finish first.
This is the first trip to nationals for every rower. Nieland qualified in 2015, but was not able to attend. “I’m not sure what to expect but I’m very excited and even more nervous,” Nieland said. As the coxswain, she acts as the eyes of the rowers and steers the boat. Since the members of the boat row backwards, it is not possible for them to see where they are going. It is Nieland’s responsibility to tell the rowers if another boat is passing them. She motivates boys in the boat to row harder to ensure that they place as high as possible.
May 27 is the first race. They will only be competing against eight boats and have the potential to race in three more heats in order to make it to the final regatta. Even if they do not place well in the first heat, they are placed in another race where they can still qualify. “I think we have the capacity to do really well,” Nieland said. Luke Jeske shares a similar opinion. Luke Jeske aspires to earn first place at Nationals and believes the boat has better times than over half of its competitors.
Luke Jeske is classified as one of the most powerful rowers on the crew team. There have not been any recent members who are able to match his size and strength. He is used to being placed in boats that do not fit his category because nobody has the same height or power. However, this boat has provided Luke with a better experience. “I have people to work with and we work well together,” Luke said. His sibling, freshman Nick Jeske, is also a member of the boat traveling to Nationals. This is Nick’s first year on crew and he is able to compete with Luke in the heavyweight category.
Despite the lack of experience in Nationals, the boys junior four feels prepared for Nationals. Schweitzer believes they can finish in “the top ten [boats] in the nation.” To achieve this goal, members of crew practice five times a week to become faster and stronger. “It’s an amazing thing to race with the people in my boat. They are the most motivated group I’ve ever known,” Luke said.