Marin rowers race toward nationals

Mia Ginsburg

Carrying their boat to the water, teammates grin together. (Photo by Lauren Poulin)

As the end of the school year rapidly approaches, the grand conclusion of the rowing season at Marin Rowing Association (MRA) draws closer and closer. Unfortunately for seniors, attending nationals also means skipping graduation, posing what, on paper, would be a difficult choice.

However, the decision is quite clear for senior Maya Popper, who has been rowing at MRA for years and is seated in the top (varsity) boat. Although she is disappointed to be missing graduation, her excitement for nationals and her love for her team overrides any angst about not attending. 

“There is nothing that compares to being at a national championship. I feel really grateful to have the opportunity to even qualify for an event like that for a sport that I’ve been working so hard at for five years at this point,” Popper said. “I’m okay with trading walking across the stage with my diploma for crossing the finish line at nationals.” 

Senior Travis Jorgensen, who is competing in the boys’ varsity boat, expressed a similar sentiment of enthusiasm as Popper but is still saddened about skipping graduation.

Rowers practice on the water, preparing for nationals. (Photo by Lauren Poulin)

“I’m kind of bummed. [Graduation is] one of those things you hear about being super fun. But at the same time, we’ve been really building up to nationals all year, especially this year with [the boat] we have. I think it’ll be a really good year,” Jorgensen said. 

Nationals is the culmination of years of hard work for many senior rowers, which can feel quite meaningful. Popper is ready to race against tough competition and be with her teammates, as the joy of competing stands true whether or not they win. 

“Regardless of its results, last year [at nationals] was so fun. And I don’t know, I’m just really excited to hash it out this year with all these other crews who are super, super fast as well,” Popper said.

Along with the glory associated with being able to compete in nationals, MRA has a few traditions to conclude the season. 

“There are senior rings that the junior, sophomore and freshman classes make for us that usually have some sort of Latin phrase that describes the class. Last year was ‘better together’ in Latin, and I think that’s really sweet. We also do an all MRA banquet that is after regionals, which is like [an] awards [ceremony]. Awards like the ‘Most Improved,’ ‘Athlete of the Year,’ and then we have awards that are named after some of the boats, for somebody who embodies the spirit of Marin,” Popper said.

Those awards are given to the most driven and hard-working rowers. Rowing is an intense and time consuming sport, with lots of dedication and discipline required. Training for important races increases the already established intensity, as Jorgensen explains.

Rowers display their MRA spirit, wearing their hoodies and gear as they load up a boat into the Larkspur Creek. (Photo by Lauren Poulin)

“A few days before we have big races, we train pretty hard. We’ve had a couple of morning practices because the wind gets a little worse here in the spring,” Jorgensen said. 

While preparing for big races can be really stressful for some, Popper feels both excited and prepared for nationals, as the team has worked so hard to get there, and there is a chance for redemption after last year’s loss. 

“We have such a great team this year, it’s like a family. I cannot wait, the competition will be stiff but we are ready,” Popper said.