by Anna Hiatt, masters rowing and RNY coach
Anna rows on the competitive masters team and coaches for Row New York. After nine years away from the sport, she returned home to rowing when she found Row New York:
For years after I left crew, I believed there was no place for me left in the sport. I’d rowed in high school, but never had any illusions that I was big or strong enough to compete with collegiate women rowers. After a year of coxing in college on the west coast, I stopped, believing that my time in racing shells was over. I packed away my high school uni and college tanks, keeping them as mementos of strokes I’d put in and races I’d helped win. I made choices that took me further and further from the sport.
That was nine—nearly ten—years ago, and through all those years, I dreamed, not often and not much, but I did dream about being in a shell. Sometime in the summer of 2015, those dreams became persistent, nightly, and I woke up too many mornings feeling the water slip from under me. And then I found Row New York.
In September 2015 I stepped into a shell again for the first time during a blissful afternoon practice at the Manhattan boathouse with the recreational masters team. The rest, as they say, is history. A season getting used to the boat again, remembering long dormant lexicon, and relearning how to push; followed by winter training at the Row New York office in Long Island City. Then the competitive masters team hit the water. I didn’t think about racing for the first few months; it seemed like a thing of my distant past. Suddenly we were down in Philadelphia in mid-June for the Schuylkill Navy Regatta. Nine years seemed to have passed in a flash, and it felt oddly like being home standing on the banks of the Schuylkill watching races go off.
Then, in quick succession came the Peter Jay Sharp Community Regatta and the Royal Canadian Henley. Getting out of the car in the boathouse parking lot that first day on Henley Island in St. Catharines, Ontario, I was transported back 11 years and two months to when I stood in exactly that spot, looking at exactly those trees, hugging my coxswain after having raced in the junior women’s 4+ on my 17th birthday. Not déjà vu. Call it…a coming home.
Over the better part of the last year, Row New York has become a home and a family. To return to the Schuylkill River and to Henley Island a decade later to race has meant a lot. But it’s the Row New York community—the coaches, the masters, the high school, and middle school rowers—that have made it feel like a treat and a privilege to wake up at 4:45 a.m., five mornings a week, to mess around in boats. Like I’ve said before the start of every race we’ve rowed as a women’s 8+ this year: I wouldn’t want to do this with anyone but you guys.
Portrait from the top by RNY photographer, Claudia Loeber.