The South Jersey Rowing Club’s women’s double took home gold at the USRowing Youth Championship in Sarasota, Fla.
Haddonfield resident David Reader, a social studies teacher at Haddonfield Memorial High School, said going into the 2017 USRowing Youth National Championships Sarasota, he was confident his team would do well, but he wasn’t sure how his teams’ skillset would translate compared to some of the largest rowing programs in the nation.
Reader, who coaches the varsity women’s teams at the South Jersey Rowing Club, said when his varsity women’s double team earned gold at the national competition on Sunday, June 11, it was truly an accomplishment coming out of a small, local program.
Reader came on as the women’s coach for the South Jersey Rowing Club this year at the request of his friend Jamie Stack, who serves as the head coach of all programs at South Jersey Rowing. The teams at South Jersey Rowing are comprised of high school athletes from across South Jersey and the surrounding areas, many of whom do not have rowing programs at their own schools, with around 45 rowers in total.
This past season, Reader coached athletes as close as Haddonfield and Cherry Hill and from the neighboring states of Delaware and Pennsylvania. Under Reader and Stack’s tutelage, the women’s program has flourished.
Prior to the national competition, three of the women’s boats qualified to compete in Sarasota, earning two gold medals and one bronze at the US Rowing Mid-Atlantic Championships on Saturday, May 13 at Lake Mercer in West Windsor. The team took 11 area high school students to compete at the national competition in Sarasota, including Haddonfield Memorial High School students Mac Van Buskirk and Christie Castorino.
Ultimately, it was the women’s double team of Rose Carr, a senior at Conrad schools of Science in Wilmington, Del., and Rachel Pierce, a senior at Cherry Hill East, that rowed its way to gold.
Pierce said going into Sarasota put the entire team into a different mindset. She said since only the best teams qualify to compete, knowing she was competing against the best rowers in the country drove her to work harder.
Leading up to Sarasota, the teams stepped up their practices, with Stack leading early morning sessions and Reader coaching the women after school. Reader said his athletes and fellow coach Stack really put the work in attending 5 a.m. practices. Pierce said each of her coaches have a different approach, which has helped shape her as an athlete.
“[Reader] is very honest and straight to the point,” Pierce said. “He’s looking for feedback for himself also. He’s someone who looks to improve as a coach also.”
Reader said the work has paid off, with several of his athletes planning to row for college teams next year.
Stack said this year, his athletes went into the season wanting to make their mark and they did.
“I knew we had a special season through the winter training when our numbers on the rowing machine kept improving,” Stack said. “As race season started to come, the pieces started falling into place.”
On race day, Stack said he told Pierce and Carr before their final race in Sarasota that whether they won or lost, he wanted them to just enjoy their last high school race.
Stack said the race was a whirlwind, but, during the last 500 meters, the pair claimed the win against Cambridge Boat Club.
Stack said he has an immense sense of pride in all of the women’s teams who made it to Sarasota.
“They’re just dedicated to what they do,” Stack said. “They wanted to win, and it reflected in every stroke they took in every single practice.”