Cherry Hill rower heading to MIT

After the Cherry Hill High School East tennis team was cut in half during her sophomore year, Lauren Rotkovitz, now a senior, looked for a new sport to test out.

A friend suggested she look into rowing through the South Jersey Rowing Club, and she never looked back.

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Rotkovitz was recruited by Massachusetts Institute of Technology for the sport.

Rowing takes up much of her time, with year-round training and races, often times consuming six days of a week.

“It becomes an obsession,” she said. “It’s hard to stop.”

At the same time, she said, it can be easy to give up.

The friend who joined the club with her left after a week, she said.

“It’s probably just the hardest just to stay motivated,” she said.

According to head coach Jamie Stack, the team competes both regionally and nationally.

“We want kids that are hard working,” Stack said. “There is a lot of dedication required.”

Many club rowers come from Cherry Hill and Voorhees, he said, as the schools do not have crew teams.

There are about 40 members on the high school club team and 20 on the middle school level with the Cooper River serving as the home turf.

Rotkovitz is one of five girls from the area in the program who received a rowing scholarship, Stack said.

Despite rowing being offered to both genders, under Title 9, scholarships tend to be geared more toward girls, he said.

Spring is the main competitive season. Rowers will take to the waters around March 1, depending on weather conditions, and races will commence by the end of the month, Stack said.

The Cooper Cup, slated for April 28, is the club’s biggest event of the year.

About 40 teams will load onto the Cooper River for a full day of rowing from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“We run races every seven minutes,” Stack said.

The club’s current schedule, according to its website, includes the US Rowing Mid Atlantic Mercer Lake competition in West Windsor and the US Rowing Youth Nationals in Oakridge, Tenn., for any qualifying boats.

The only time rowers have off is half of July and August before the fall season begins.

In the winter, training takes place in an indoor Mt. Laurel-based facility.

According to Stack, rowing helps student athletes to excel both on and off the water.

“The sport of rowing itself gets kids more focused on getting everything done because it’s so competitive,” he said.

For Rotkovitz, that sentiment rings exceedingly true.

“I think rowing is all about real power,” she said.

There is a difference between the spring and fall seasons, she said.

“In fall, we do longer distance,” she said.

Spring rowing is mostly sprinting, she said, with 2,000-meter races that generally last about eight minutes for girls compared to fall’s 20-minute races and 5 to 6,000-meter races.

“It’s a lot longer,” she said.

Cooperation between teammates is essential, Rotkovitz said.

“Rowing is mostly a team sport,” she said. “You need to work with people. You have to get along with them.”

Even after Rotkovitz moves on from the club, it will still remain close to her heart, in the form of her sister, who she introduced to the sport.

“It’s in the family now,” she said.

Learn more about the program by visiting http://southjerseyrowing.org.

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