Fox Chapel Area rowers gearing up for Head of the Ohio
Three Fox Chapel Area High School student athletes share a special goal this year.
Connor McAtee, Trevor Klatt and Matt Good will row for their school team at the Head of the Ohio, crossing off a major benchmark toward reaching the national rowing championships.
The 32nd annual Head of the Ohio, set for Oct. 6 to 7, is hosted by Three Rivers Rowing Association and aims to celebrate the beauty of Pittsburgh’s rivers. Hosted on the Allegheny River, the local competition draws scholastic, club and individual boats.
The trio rowed previously together at the Camden, N.J., nationals in 2015. They earned a spot on the medal podium with second place.
This year, the group is building confidence through a rigid training routine.
Good said Pittsburgh is not noted for high-caliber rowing programs, and they felt like underdogs in the last big race. They rowed in the sixth lane, not a prime position.
At the starting line, coxswain Good, then-15, had his voice break, and everyone broke up laughing.
McAtee said, “It took all the stress away. We had our best start. We jumped ahead and stayed there. We never gave up.”
Klatt said the key to victory will be practice — a minimum of two and a half hours a day, six days a week.
Rowing requires concentration, too.
“Rowing is a science. Fundamentally, it’s pushing wood on water,” McAtee said. “Each intricate detail matters. It’s not just sweat and no sleep. You have to dedicate a large portion of your life.”
He emphasized the importance of a healthy lifestyle combined with good sleep habits and quality nutrition.
Before returning as a sophomore to UCLA, volunteer coach Alan McIvor spent the last few weeks of summer helping with the rowing regimen. He channeled his collegiate coach, telling his teammates, “learn to train, learn to race, learn to win.”
McAtee hopes to row 1,500- and 2,000-meter races. He jokes that each meet means five hours travel, five hours waiting and five minutes racing.
Racing is more than just those few minutes, though.
The Fox Chapel Area team practices at Millvale. An indoor tank, as big as a stadium and used in bad weather for practice, looks like something from a science fiction movie. The guys prefer to row on the river by Washington’s Landing.
“You feel more connected,” Klatt said.
The natural beauty on the river, the camaraderie of friends and the ability to focus are all benefits the students recognize. All three feel lessons learned rowing carry over to school. McAtee is interested in bio-mechanical engineering, Klatt in architecture and Good in business.
“Rowing emphasizes my time management skills,” McAtee said. “When we don’t have practice, it feels like you’re missing something.”
Sharon Drake is a freelance writer