The women’s rowing team at Syracuse University has been slowly and steadily climbing in the collegiate ranks each year. This year, the team finished a highly successful season by finishing in 13th place at the NCAA Division I Championship. Among the athletes on the team was a Chautauqua County native and Jamestown High alumna: Haley Jones.
Jones, who just completed her sophomore year at SU, first got her start rowing at the Chautauqua Lake Rowing Association (CLRA). She has come a long way since – not only did she compete at the NCAA Championship, but she was part of an eight-woman boat that was named the Atlantic Coast Conference Crew of the Year. She was also honored with a Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association Scholar-Athlete Award.
And on Sunday, Jones returned to the CLRA – the place where it all began – to speak at the club’s annual Rock ‘n’ Row Fundraiser. She also took a few moments to talk with the Jamestown Gazette about her journey as a rower, her success at SU, and why it’s important to give back to her hometown.
Cortney: How did you first get your start in rowing?
Haley: My dad really wanted me to row because he had done a learn-to-row [class] way back when. And I said, “Dad, I don’t want to row.” But he was like, “C’mon, you’re so tall, they would love you there.” Then finally a couple of my friends took up rowing, so I decided I would try it too. At that point, about freshman year of high school, I kind of used it as a way to stay in shape for volleyball. That was my main sport at the time. But I found that as high school went on, I actually began using volleyball to stay in shape for rowing instead.
Cortney: What is it that you love about the sport of rowing?
Haley: Especially in high school, [the Chautauqua Lake Rowing Association] was such a fun place for me to go. It was my space. I had all of my friends there. I wouldn’t say it was relaxing – because nothing about rowing is relaxing – but it was nice to be a part of a group. Rowing is the ultimate team sport because you don’t have just one stand-out rower in a boat. If you do, then your boat probably isn’t going very well. Everyone has to be on the same rhythm, the same wavelength, for it to work. I really enjoy that teamwork aspect.
Cortney: How is collegiate rowing different than high school rowing?
Haley: College is way more intense than high school – I was not prepared for how much more work it was going to be. Our schedule is pretty standard for collegiate rowing, I think; we practice twice a day. We go out on the water in the morning for three hours, 6:30 to 9:30… Then at some point throughout the day we also have a secondary workout which can either be weightlifting, cross-training, anything like that. We’re putting in 20-hour training weeks when we’re in our fall and spring seasons, which is the maximum number of hours allowed under the NCAA. We’re on all the time.
Cortney: With all that hard work, what did it mean to you and your team to place 13th at the NCAA Championship?
Haley: For me, it’s been really interesting because I came in as one of the least experienced girls. So one of Syracuse’s biggest draws was that their rowing team was on the upswing; they were improving and developing as a team. In that same sense, I can tell that I have developed as an athlete and I have climbed up the ladder each year. That’s what the team has been doing too and that’s always really exciting. It’s great to be a part of something that has just continually gotten better.
For the team, we talk about how it was kind of a glorious failure. We set our hopes on NCAA Top 10 and we got 13th place. But, you know, by the end of the season we had a lot of hiccups and barriers to overcome. Honestly, we did so well given the circumstances that I don’t think anyone was too upset about how we ended our season.
Cortney: You came home to speak at the Rock ‘n’ Row Fundraiser. Why is it so important to you to support rowing events in your hometown?
Haley: I love rowing so much and I want other people to get to experience what I got to experience. Back when I was in high school, the Chautauqua Lake Rowing Association was really new and still developing. Nobody really expected any of us to go out and be good. Being able to prove that idea wrong… that feeling is so great. I want people to see that Chautauqua Lake Rowing is a force to be reckoned with. Plus, it’s really important to me to give back to the club and the people that gave so much to me at the start of my rowing career.
To read more of Cortney Linnecke’s creative and informative contributions to the Jamestown Gazette, please go to www.jamestowngazette.com.