“If you saw her walking down the street, you wouldn’t say, ‘There goes a rower,’ ” Al Borghard, the Riverhead High School and East End Rowing coach, said of Kate Hale.
But anyone thinking that sentiment would be quite wrong. Hale, a senior at Longwood High School, will be a scholarship rower at LaSalle University in Philadelphia this coming fall. She is the first East End Rowing product to earn a college scholarship, according to the association’s president, Michelle Zaloom.
“It showed me hard work does pay off and to never give up on something you really want to succeed in,” Hale said.
Borghard said he knew Hale would be good the first time he saw her row about three years ago. From looking at her in a scull, Borghard said that from that first glimpse, he could tell she had a good sense of what she was doing, and was already quite technically proficient. Her mastery of rowing technique, he added, is what has allowed her to excel even though she does not seem like a particularly gifted athlete.
“She’s persevered,” Zaloom said, adding: “She’s worked hard. It’s paying off now. You can see it. She’s one of the better rowers around and she’s winning some hardware.”
Most recently, she and Dana Wolkiewicz took first place in the club division of the women’s senior double at the New York Scholastic Championships in Saratoga Springs on May 9. They won with a time of 6 minutes 22 seconds.
A few weeks earlier at the ISA Mercer Sprints in New Jersey, Hale and Wolkiewicz won the doubles finals. They finished first and second in varsity singles.
At the Coastweeks Regatta in Mystic, Conn., Hale took a gold medal in the mixed doubles and a bronze medal in the singles event.
Hale said she most enjoys being at the starting line right before a final heat is about to get under way.
“The tension is huge, but once they say go it’s like all the tension and nerves are thrown away,” she said. “You just want to get past the finish line first.”
Four years ago, Hale said, she was looking for a sport, and heard about East End Rowing from some friends. So she signed up for a class to learn how to row and has been on the water ever since. “I have met the most wonderful people and I love being on the water,” she said.
If she is not in school, the water is where she can most likely be found. During the school year, she practices three hours a day, six days a week. When school is out, she will practice twice a day for a total of five hours.
“Kate’s got the drive,” Zaloom said.
And a passion for competition. That, she said, is what has kept her racing. She has also made a large number of friends in the rowing community, and views race weekends as road trips to be savored and enjoyed.
It also does not hurt that she is good. “She rows very well,” Borghard said. On the water, “you’d see that right away.”
So are many of her East End Rowing teammates. At the Scholastic Championships, the boys varsity crew of Michael Kringle, Dane Nordland, Mike Powers and John Lombardi took second place.
Lauren Woodhull of Riverhead¬ and Renee Girard of East Moriches won silver in the¬ women’s junior doubles. A week later, they won bronze in the event at the Stotesbury Cup in Philadelphia.