By Ed Moran
Lauren Schmetterling was clear about her goals when she met with U.S. women’s national team coach, Tom Terhaar.
She told him she wanted to row on the national team and was intent on making it. She had the power and the desire, but Terhaar thought she wasn’t quite ready. She needed work on her technique.
So Terhaar’s suggestion was to move to Boston, join the Riverside Boat Club and start working with head coach Tom Keister. “I’ve made that suggestion to a number of women,” Terhaar said last week. “Tom’s been great for us. They are not afraid to do the work. They erg and they get fit and they get better. It’s a lot easier to fit a new athlete in when they are fit. And they get fit at Riverside.”
Schmetterling followed the advice and trained and developed at Riverside for 22 months, earning her an invitation to the Princeton Training Center in November 2012
For Schmetterling, who won a gold medal at last summer’s world championships in the eight, and a number of notable athletes who row for, or have rowed for, the U.S. women’s team, Riverside was a place that helped make their international careers possible.
Some of the athletes include Olympians Natalie Dell, and Meghan Musnicki, Emily Huelskamp, who won gold in the four last summer in South Korea and four-time national team lightweight Hillary Saeger, who has two world championship bronze medals and one silver rowing in the lightweight women’s quad.
Last week, Saeger was again in the lightweight women’s quad that won senior trials along with the RBC men’s lightweight quad of Andrew Neils, Peter Schmidt, Jacob Georgeson and Kyle Lafferty. They won their senior trials event and now all five RBC athletes will race at the 2014 World Rowing Championships in Amsterdam, The Netherlands in August.
In addition, Schmetterling, who won another gold medal in the eight at the recent World Cup II at Lake Aiguebelette in France, and Huelskamp are in the mix for the coming world championships.
Talk to any of the women on the U.S. squad who have rowed at RBC, and they will tell say without question that their time at RBC is a big reason they have gotten to where they are.
“Rowing there was absolutely amazing,” Schmetterling said. “Tom Keister will do anything to make sure his athletes succeed and he will take them as far as they want to go. He would stay out with me on the water in my single until he was sure that I was accomplishing what he wanted me to accomplish.”
Musnicki, who also won another international gold on Lake Aiguebelette, remembers her time at RBC as life changing.
“Training at Riverside taught me many different things,” Musnicki said. “For starters, it forced me to be more independent and reinforced the idea that you are responsible for yourself. Being a part of a club means that you have to make sure your boat gets to the race, you have to make sure your oars get to the race, and you have to know when your race is.”
She said that was not her experience rowing in college where she would get on a bus, be driven to the race, get off the bus and the equipment would “magically appear.” But she also said that while she had to develop an independent mindset, there was plenty of support at RBC.
“It’s like joining a huge family. If you need something or don’t know something, or want help with something, I knew all I had to do was send out a blast to the RBC list serve and within ten minutes my inbox would be flooded with responses.”
And, like Schmetterling, Musnicki credits the coaching she got at the club.
“As far as the coaching staff goes, I feel incredibly lucky to have trained under Tom Keister. Day in and day out he provided me with anything and everything I could need to attempt to advance my skills in small boats.
“I came to him pretty green in the small boat department so he definitely had his work cut out for him, but he kept at it and if it weren’t for him I definitely would not have gotten the invitation to go try out and train at the Princeton Training Center.
“He kicked my butt into shape, getting me physically ready for the training load at the center, and on top of that seemed undeterred in his attempts to round out some of the many rough edges I had in the single and double,” she said.
“There is no doubt in my mind that my journey to the national team began at RBC. I will forever be thankful for my time there and will always cherish my stripes!”