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Monday September 15 2014
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Row Row Row Your…Erg?

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“People do crazy things when they’re in love.” – Hercules Truer words have never been spoken for Maddy Pollock and Sydney Jean Gottfried, regarding the pair’s love for the sport of rowing.

The 16-year-olds, rowers with the Steel City Rowing Club in Verona, broke the world record for the longest tandem erg row for women 19 and under, and the 24-hour tandem row. They etched their names in history on Wednesday, March 28.

An erg is an indoor rowing machine that sits one person and simulates rowing on a river. In order to break the record fair and square, the girls had to figure out a way for them to switch without stopping. One of them rowed for 30 minutes while the other refueled and refreshed. They rowed a total of 285,685 meters, which equates to about 177 miles during their 24 hours on the machine.

A spring break training trip to South Carolina turned into what proved to be a memorable trip for the pair when they decided to go for the record. 

“It was a last minute idea,” said Pollock. “We were on Spring Break with plenty of time to recover.”

What started out as a joke with their coaches turned into a plan that was very intricately thought out, especially considering the short amount of time it took them to decide to go for the record.  

“We were driving with our coaches and joking about breaking a world record,” Gottfried said. The pair is coached by Laci and Dori Tompa and Matt Grau of Steel City Rowing.

“We set up a hang out area in my house,” said Pollock of the preparations they made before beginning. Gottfried added that lots of sleep the night before and lots of food were crucial to being physically capable to make it the entire time.

With their names in the history books, both girls said they wouldn’t have done anything differently in all aspects of the event, especially the quick turnaround between deciding to give it a shot and actually doing it. 

“I’m glad we planned it last minute,” said Pollock. “There was not much time to think about it.”

Pollock, a junior at Shadyside Academy, began rowing when she was in the seventh grade and had her first rowing instruction as part of a learn-to-row class at school. 

“I thought it was worth a shot,” she said of what has now become her passion. “I tried it, loved it, and never ever want to give it up.”

The same goes for Gottfriend, a junior at the Ellis School who only began her rowing career about a year ago. 

“My brother rowed and I came to his workouts,” she said of her introduction to the sport. “Maddy was already there and we ended up working out together and eventually rowing together.”

The Steel City Rowing Club boasts several alumni who have gone on to pursue college careers in rowing at top-notch schools such as Boston University, Stanford and Harvard.

In a city surrounded by rivers, the club is in a prime location to foster talent of all ages.

“There is a huge range of adults that row, like ages 19-75,” the girls said. 

They also said they hope to volunteer at the Rowing Club once they get older, as they want to be around the sport forever. Even though the girls are only juniors in high school, both already have collegiate rowing on their minds. 

“We really want to go to college to row and hopefully continue well after that,” Pollock said. “I can’t imagine ever dropping the sport.”

The rowing world can’t imagine them dropping the sport either.  It’s safe to say that these two will not come rowing “gently” down the stream.

I spent three days late last month visiting 18 high schools across the WPIAL. I drove 533 miles, took hundreds of photographs, shook hands with dozens of coaches, athletic directors and principals and climbed way too many stadium steps. I loved every minute of it, of course.
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