Niskayuna

Niskayuna rower closes high school career at world championships

Heather Schmidt, a Niskayuna graduate and rising freshman at Stanford University, sits in the USRowing women's quad representing USA at the world rowing championships in Italy in July 2022.

Heather Schmidt, a Niskayuna graduate and rising freshman at Stanford University, sits in the USRowing women's quad representing USA at the world rowing championships in Italy in July 2022.

NISKAYUNA Niskayuna rower Heather Schmidt competed on both U.S. coasts and overseas during the past two months, and closed the high school chapter of her rowing career before leaving for Stanford University in a few weeks.

“Just thinking about this whole past year, especially this past summer, just brings a huge smile to my face because I had such a great time,” Schmidt said. 

Competing and winning has that effect on athletes.

Schmidt’s spring high school rowing season included a gold medal at the New York State championships held on Fish Creek in Saratoga, a gold medal at the Stotesbury Cup in Philadelphia, a gold medal at the Scholastic Rowing Association of America championships in New Jersey followed up with a silver medal at the USRowing Youth National Championships in Florida.

She still had more to prove.

“We got our silver medals [Youth Nationals] and then I immediately went to the airport and flew to California,” Schmidt said. 

She wasn’t starting classes at Stanford … yet. 

For the second consecutive year she was invited to try out for the USRowing U19 women’s rowing team and a chance to represent the USA at the world rowing championships in Italy.

“I feel like I never got a break, which is fine, because everyone else was doing that too,” Schmidt said. “It is a really stressful thing because one thing I told myself was nothing is guaranteed.”

Schmidt advanced to last year’s U19 women’s squad, rowing in the women’s quad in Bulgaria. That boat advanced to the grand final, the first for the U19 squad in four years, finishing sixth.

Heather Schmidt, a Niskayuna graduate and rising freshman at Stanford University speaks after being recognized as on of the Capital District Sports Women of the Year recipients Monday STAN HUDY/THE DAILY GAZETTE

“I didn’t want to be complacent thinking I went last year, that’s good enough,” Schmidt said about this year’s invitation from USRowing. “I have to be just as fast if not faster than I was last year in order to make it again. I was always on the edge of my seat, just like everyone else there.”

Schmidt once again earned a seat in the U19 women’s quad.

A moment of elation was followed by a few more stressful weeks of training in California.

“Oh great, I made the team, that’s good enough,” Schmidt said. “But then you’re like now you have to go compete against other countries and you just have to perform again. There’s really no break.”

This year the U19 USA women’s quad again advanced to the grand final, finishing fourth behind Romania, Germany and Great Britain.

It was a new experience for Schmidt.

“I remember crossing that finish line and being like, wow, fourth, fourth really hurts,” Schmidt said. “I don’t think I’ve ever really finished fourth, it is not something I’m comfortable with or something I’m used to getting.”

Schmidt remained in Italy for a few days before returning home to Niskayuna, shaking off the jet lag and re-adjusting to Eastern Standard Time.

Her scholastic achievements were recognized once again last week — honored as one of the Capital District Sportswomen of the Year recipients — at Proctors.

Each recipient was asked to speak after receiving their honor — again there was pressure on. 

“I was a little nervous about it, but I just remembered to myself that I don’t think there’s anything quite as scary as being in a race heat next to Germany and Great Britain,” Schmidt said. “They’re some of the best sculling teams in the world. So that was pretty scary, I mean, it’s, it’s pretty scary. My speech wasn’t super planned, but I’m glad I was able to think quickly enough to mention that I just came back from Italy a week ago.”

Schmidt, an engineering major, will leave for Stanford in September and join the Cardinal women’s rowing team. 

Her focus will be on her academics, collegiate rowing career and possibly another turn at the USRowing women’s rowing team — the U23 squad — in a few years.

“I think possibly my junior or senior year,” Schmidt said. “I think my coach knows a lot and they would say something, no matter what team you’re on, and they say I think you should try to make the U23 team. Then it goes from there.”

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