Moorestown’s Olivia Coffey competed with the nation’s top rowers at the U.S. Rowing Youth Regional Challenge in Sarasota.
For Moorestown High School junior Olivia Coffey, rowing crew started simply as a way to try something new. Little did she know, the sport would become her whole world, training year-round, reading up on the sport and looking into college crew teams.
The self-proclaimed “crew nerd” was selected as one of 900 athletes to be part of the U.S. Rowing Youth Regional Challenge held in Sarasota, Fla., at the end of September. Coffey was chosen to be part of the A select Quad.
The Challenge featured 312 of the top Under-19 rowers from across six regions of the United States: the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Northeast, Southeast and Southwest. Each region was represented by two “all-star” teams in four boat classes: the men’s and women’s eights, as well as the men’s and women’s quadruple sculls. The Challenge took place during the same time as the World Rowing Championships in Sarasota.
U.S. Rowing U19 Development Coach Steve Hargis said in a statement the Youth Regional Challenge serves two purposes.
“First, for the first time ever, we are bringing together each region’s top developmental junior athletes, coxswains and their coaches for friendly, yet high-level competition,” Hargis said. “Second, this event provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be able to see a World Championship up close and personal from the water side — not just sitting in the stands.”
Coffey started rowing crew in seventh grade. Until then, she had swum and played lacrosse, but she thought it might be time to try something different. She was surprised by how much she grew to love the sport. She said there came a time when she had to choose to prioritize either crew or swimming, and she chose crew.
The sport’s training requires a lot of endurance, which is what Coffey loves most about it. She said she reaps a satisfaction from putting in hard work and watching it pay off during a competition.
“After you finish a race, it’s a really good feeling you have,” Coffey said with a brimming smile.
Her training involves cross training, lifting and running year-round.
Coffey said her journey to Sarasota started when her mother received an email about the program. She said she applied not thinking she had a chance among all the girls applying and was overjoyed to learn her times qualified her to make the team.
On Sept. 21, Coffey headed to Sarasota and was excited to compete on the same course that world rowing champions were utilizing. She said attending the World Rowing opening ceremony was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“It was an unbelievable feeling,” Coffey said.
Coffey said her team placed fifth in its heat, but the experience wasn’t about winning or losing. She said competing on a nationally-ranked course with her fellow top athletes was a reward in and of itself.
Harry Carroll, Moorestown Rowing Club’s head varsity girl’s coach, said Coffey approaches the sport with a self-deprecating attitude, but her dedication is apparent to anyone who works with her. He said Coffey is a good-natured kid who is easily coachable and not stuck in her ways.
Carroll said not only does Coffey research and study rowing, but she thinks beyond just competing in and around Moorestown.
“She does her research,” Carroll said. “She’s not looking at where Moorestown begins and ends.”
Looking ahead, Carroll said he thinks Coffey has more potential than she realizes, and he’s excited to see where it takes her.
For more information on the Moorestown Rowing Club, visit www.moorestowncrew.org.