Bolles rowing team looks to build off regional championship at youth nationals

The Bolles men's youth 4+ rowing team won the Southeast Youth Championships last month and competes in the nationals this week in Sarasota. (Chris Register, Bolles)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Every little movement has a consequence in a boat this small.

That’s what makes the teamwork and chemistry so important.

Bolles qualified for the nationals with a time of 7 minutes, 4.220 seconds at the Southeast Youth Championships last month. That time in the men’s youth 4+ division final gave Bolles a 1.6-second win over the Asheville Youth Association and a regional championship. That punched their ticket to the US Rowing Youth National Championships that begin Thursday in Sarasota.

At the forefront of that all — teamwork. It has to be.

“The best thing about the team is that it is a team. Like, we’re all rowing for each other, and it’s really exciting. You can’t go out there and be like a selfish rower,” said Bolles rower Aaron Shumer. “If all four of us are rowing as individuals, we’re going to get nowhere. And that’s one of the reasons why we did so well at regionals, is that we all rowed together.”

On a vessel that’s roughly 42 feet long and less than 2 feet wide, that chemistry is just as important as the strength that powers the boat. Going to nationals is something Bolles has done, but it hadn’t gone in as a regional champ in this event before.

“We focused a little bit more on just gaining experience and getting comfortable with it, right? Like, water is water, which is always fantastic,” said Bolles coach Chris Register. “So, it’s really just tying them into their own mindset and making sure they stay rather internal and have the best race performance they can and then make sure we’re happy with that.”

Avery Goldknopf, a rising senior at Bolles, said the connection among the team is what has made this run so special.

“I think it’s just that everyone really rows for each other. I think it’s a very selfless crew,” she said. “And we’re all here more for each other than we are for ourselves. And I think that really helps us get behind everything more.”

Goldknopf sits in the coxswain position in the boat and guides her teammates and steers the vessel.

Shumer, David Santamaria, Carmine Levy and Kevin McAfee provide the power on the oars while Goldknopf communicates and steers the boat over the 2000-meter course. In races that can be decided by less than a second, that chemistry is significant, Shumer said.

“We’re definitely really confident now,” he said. “Being the fastest coxed four in the southeast United States this year has been really, really exciting.”

The Bolles team will compete in a time trial on Thursday morning at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota beginning at 8:10 a.m. The top 12 teams advance to a Friday semifinal. Teams outside of that will move on to a separate final.

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.