Hebron is not exactly conducive to competitive rowing. It’s hard, after all, to move boats across open fields and rolling hills without the help of a waterway.
So the fact that two Hebron Academy graduates are about to compete on college rowing’s biggest stage is even more of a testament to the women’s hard work and inherent skill.
Katie Curtis, a senior at Colby College, and her younger sister Carrie, a sophomore, are part of the varsity eight boat for the Colby crew team that this weekend will compete in the NCAA Division III championship regatta in New Jersey.
“We’re all really excited about this,” said Katie, who was recognized as an All-America. “It’s just seniors left on campus right now for graduation, and it’s hard not to get caught up in all of the activities with the rest of them, but I’ve been doing this for four years now. It’s been fun, and this is such a big opportunity for us.”
Better still, said Katie, because her younger sister improved enough after her freshman year to row on the varsity boat as a sophomore.
They both played sports on the same Hebron Academy teams as long as they can remember.
“I never thought we could do this in college, though,” said Carrie. “It was easier at Hebron because you can do that at a private school, even though we were two years apart.”
And though Hebron does little to prepare their students to be NCAA-caliber rowers other than offer them the proper academics, Katie found her way onto the team as a freshman.
“I played three varsity sports since I was in sixth grade,” said Katie. “My first fall here, it seemed weird not to be doing anything. I was looking for something to do and I had friends on the team, so I joined them.”
That decision is one Colby coach Stew Stokes is happy she made.
“She’s been great for us,” said Stokes. “She took a semester off to go to New Zealand, which in the long run may have been better for her physiologically anyway, and she came back stronger.”
Carrie followed her sister to Colby without much coaxing.
“I knew a lot about the school because I visited Katie a lot when she was here at first,” said Carrie. “She told me I should come to Colby and row. I hadn’t even thought about crew before that.”
Now, the two are rowing on the same side of the boat. Katie rows in the No. 5 seat, on the port side, while Carrie is in seat No. 3.
“We actually tried them right next to each other,” said Stokes, “but some rowers have better success on one side of the boat, and both of them are port-side rowers. I guess I should have seen that coming, being sisters and all.”
Now, thanks to the sisters and six other strong rowers, Colby has a chance to compete alongside the nation’s best. The goal? To win, of course.
“We always have great practices,” said Katie, “but in the races we haven’t always been able to put it all together, to be both calm and intense at the same time. That’s what we need to do, and if we can do that, we have a chance.”
This may not be Katie’s last step either. She has earned an invitation to the U.S. Development Camp, hosted this summer at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington.
For Carrie, meanwhile, this year represents another step. Last year, she raced in the novice boat and won almost every race with that team. This year, she had a chance to race with her sister. Next year, she’ll be on her own.
First, though, they have a regatta to row.