GH Werowinski (Acton MA) is probably like a lot of seniors at this time of year. He is focused on college. But unlike others his focus is not so much on where, but on what he plans to do there. He is interested in science going forward and as a result is taking three science courses this year: Physiology, AP Environmental Science and AP Physics. The bigger uncertainty for GH is in what sport he will play in college.
“In college I know I could do two sports for all four years… but it's going to kill me. And I’m never going to [maximize performance] in one of the sports because I am always going to be flip flopping between practices and coaches. …I would end up doing two years of both and then committing to one farther on and I would probably lose two years of effective training for that sport. So the other thing I am trying to figure out is [which] sport I like more.”
When GH came to Dublin three years ago that might have been the most unlikely result possible. In middle school, GH ran a bit of cross country, played some lacrosse and in the winter he did woodworking. He was not really committed to anything but he knew he wanted to try Nordic Skiing and Crew even if he really did not expect much, “When I came to Dublin I wasn’t very confident that I could do new things and be good at them. With the sailing team there was a very clear defining moment in our first race when I got picked to go to the varsity race. I slowly began to learn that I was capable of things that I didn’t think I was before. Basically, I got confidence with sailing that I could be good at something that I wasn’t good at just by pure work. I realized I could get better. I realized I could improve and I was shocked that that was possible.”
“When I started Nordic I realized that I could pick up a new sport and learn it and if I continued to work and try as hard as possible, I can actually get to a level that I am really happy with which I am starting to get to now. I realized [that] through sailing, and yeah, I stopped doing sailing [because] I fell in love with Nordic and Crew.”
GH had some relative success early with both Nordic and Crew. The crew team made it to NSRA Nationals in his freshman year. In his sophomore year, GH made it to J2s (Nordic) and did very well ranking second for NH over the J2 weekend. “That's probably what has driven me more, because once you see that you can be at the top of your performance at the top of your age group then if I keep working like this I can get even better. So it’s not just that I saw that I was improving. I was in the mesh of everyone who was like me.”
So how does someone decide what their future will be when you love doing two things?
It is not easy for GH in that Nordic and Crew are sports that GH loves and dislikes in equal measure. The fact is that endurance sports are hard. They sap an athlete’s endurance and require great mental toughness. GH struggles to put the decision in words.
For GH, ”Nordic is a mentally easier sport… because there are downhills and you get the rest whereas with crew it’s all out, all the time. You got to be going for it. It’s a really hard decision because I love the feeling I get when I ski and I love the feeling I get when I row. With Nordic you have that wonderful feeling of skiing all the time whereas in Crew you hate it sometimes and when you love it it’s the best feeling in the world. It’s hard to experience it unless you get to [a high)] level.
When there’s five people in a boat, working together. … When you do it right, there is a feeling of just glide and flow. It’s kind of unlike anything. You’re not doing any work but the boat is just cruising and it feels like you’re flying but you’re on the water. And its kinda…. it’s a feeling of freedom almost. That you’re invincible and you could keep going and going and going for as long as possible. Despite the pain. There is that moment of pain when you take a stroke. But then you have that second of recovery time. You just feel so powerful and strong.
Teamwork is.. you start the season off and five guys in a boat and you really don’t know how to work together. At some point over the entire process you’ll feel connected to one another and eventually you will be able to feel like someone is dropping their hands in a catch and you can literally feel when someone is having a bad day. Whether it be from school or they are tired from rowing or something like that … and you are all so interconnected. You don’t even have to say anything and you know what’s going on. Which is an incredible feeling.”
Two great choices. One in the solitude of the winter woods and the other in a shared crew shell. Two different sports unified by extreme effort. And it all started with sailing.