Community Sports

Bellingham’s Susie Bennett rowing at national championships

Susie Bennett fell in love with rowing three years ago when she discovered the sport not only challenges her physically, but can be her ticket to college. Now, she is competing against the best young rowers in the country at the USRowing Club National Championships in Bethel, Ohio.

Representing the Seattle Area Rowing Association, Bennett’s team is competing against 34 other Women’s U19 eight plus boats at the championships, which begin with time trials Wednesday, July 15 and continue through Sunday, July 19. The top 21 shells after the Wednesday race will go on to the semifinal rounds. The women, in shells that weigh ounces, race 2,000 meters and finishers are ofter within seconds of each other.

The Bellingham High School junior is seated No. 5 of eight in her rowing shell.

“I am very excited and I feel prepared,” Bennett said. “I have pre-race nerves of course, but those go away when I get on the water.”

Her rowing journey began years ago when she joined the Whatcom Rowing Association. As competition became stronger, a friend invited her to a three week training camp in Seattle where Bennett hoped to enhance her skills on the water. The camp was a way to narrow down the team who would be going on to the national championships.

When Bennett initially heard about the camp, which took place at the Conibear Shellhouse, University of Washington’s rowing team’s home base, she began to see how her dream of rowing her way to college could become a reality. Her goal is to earn a scholarship to row for the University of Washington, the same team her sister is on.

Always an athlete, other sports have become ways to supplement what is her one true love, rowing. Her coach told her that being able to compete in multiple sports would help her rowing skills and give her an advantage when applying for college. Naturally she would do everything she can to be more competitive, she said.

She has a one-track mind right now, and that is to work toward a collegiate rowing career. Everything she does is in preparation for that, Bennett said.

What makes rowing special, Bennett said, is how it does not wear down her body as much as high-impact sports.

“It has a different element of working as hard, or harder,” she said. “But you don’t feel the pain when you get of the water. My muscles are burning, but not hurting.”

The social aspect of rowing is another thing that makes Bennett so committed to her team, she said. A race lasts about eight minutes, but in between sprints the women are hanging out and encouraging each other.

Aside from rowing, basketball is something she really enjoys, and she is beginning to think about a law degree.

“Pretty much all the decisions I make are to set me up as best I can to go to UW,” she said.

If the Seattle team advances on to the semifinals, its next race will be Thursday morning, July 16.