Niskayuna High School rising senior Heather Schmidt has qualified to represent the United States next month at the 2021 Junior World Rowing Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
Schmidt is currently preparing for the Aug. 11-15 competition at Chula Vista Olympic Elite Athlete Training Center near San Diego, the same site where she made the U19 Junior National Rowing Team after a tryout session that covered several weeks.
“This was not only a dream, but a goal,” the 17-year-old Schmidt said Thursday between training sessions. “It’s big. Sometimes I don’t believe it. When I put the uniform on, I think it will be, ‘Wow, it’s real.’”
Just over 60 girls were invited to the rigorous tryout to fill spots for the women’s quadruple scull, women’s eight, women’s four and women’s four with coxswain, and Schmidt is among the 22 (not including alternates) that will represent the United States in those divisions. Schmidt will be one of four members of the women’s quadruple boat.
At the tryout, the youngsters went through numerous ergometer tests, seat races and physical fitness challenges, and were also evaluated for their positive attitude and determination. The teams were announced Monday.
“There were a lot of talented girls,” said Schmidt, who also skis and plays basketball. “It was definitely a mental and physical strain. You wanted to have fun and make friends, but at the same time there were only four spots.”
Schmidt, who is a member of Niskayuna Rowing and a Stanford University commit, will compete on the world stage with Meena Baher (Mountain View, California, Los Gatos Rowing Club), Annie Herring (Dallas, The Hockaday School) and Jackie Oruci (Oyster Bay, Oak Neck Rowing Academy).
“It’s so cool that I’ll be able to do this with some of the best girls I’ve met in my life,” Schmidt said.
USRowing will have seven girls’ boats and seven boys’ boats in all at the Junior World Rowing Championships.
“It’s international so there are no resources to see what the other countries have done, but they’re the best from their country, so they have to be very, very good,” Schmidt said. “We’re good, too, and I believe we have a lot of potential. We haven’t peaked yet, and that’s the way it should be.”
Niskayuna Rowing also had Niskayuna High School rising seniors Jordan Zenner and Daniel Kelly selected to participate this month in the US Rowing Olympic Development High Performance Camp, which included training in Jacksonville, Florida, and additional training and racing in Sarasota, Florida.
“It is no surprise that these three athletes have accomplished this after the amazing high school years they have had,” Niskayuna Rowing head coach Stacey Apfelbaum said in a release. “Watching them grow into passionate athletes as well and fantastic young adults has been a pleasure.”
Earlier this year, Schmidt and Zenner captured gold medals in the girls’ junior double at the Stotesbury Cup, New York championships and national championships, and placed second at the scholastic youth nationals.
“It’s been a good year to get my name out there,” Schmidt said.