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Champion rower returns for another round at worlds
Mia Croonquist, the celebrated teen rower who was part of a winning boat at the world championships last summer, hasn’t rowed much since bringing home her gold medal last August. The 15-year-old spent the last nine months attending high school in Hawaii.
But now Croonquist is back and proving to the world that she’s still got it on the water. She has once again been selected as one of just 16 girls to compete on the U.S. team at the World Rowing Junior Championships — the highest level of competition for a junior rower. This year’s competition will take place next week in Bulgaria.
“I was a bit nervous; I didn’t know what kind of shape I was in,” Coonquist said of the selection camp she attended last month. “You’ve just got to push yourself and see where you can go. I ended up making it, and that was awesome.”
Croonquist, reached at home before she left to train with the U.S. team at Princeton University, said that while in Hawaii she kept fit by participating in cross country and outrigger canoe paddling.
Once at the selection camp, she said, her times weren’t as good as they were last year. However, her coaches knew her situation, she said, and selected her for the team with the condition that she would improve her speed by the time of the competition.
“We made a deal. They realized I hadn’t rowed in a long time,” she said.
Last year Croonquist made history as the youngest girl to ever compete for the U.S. at worlds. Her boat, a straight four, took home gold, beating New Zealand, Great Britain and several other teams.
Croonquist said she decided to spend her sophomore year in Hawaii because it’s a place she and her family love to visit and because she’s been advised by others not to burn out on rowing before going to college. She worried that it would be hard to take a year off of crew while living on Vashon, and her coaches and teammates were supportive of her decision.
“I’m really glad I went out there,” she said. “I think it was a really good decision.”
Richard Parr, a world-class rowing coach recently selected to head the Vashon Island Rowing Club, said he has only worked with Croonquist a few times but he’s impressed wither her abilities.
Parr said some credit Mia’s success to her strength and athleticism, but he also sees a rower whose intelligence and attitude benefit her just as much.
“She just has such a sensible and smart head on her shoulders,” Parr said. “There are a lot of big, strong girls around, and not a lot get to be world champions. She’s a complete package.”
In Bulgaria Croonquist will stroke the women’s eight, meaning she’ll set the boat’s pace. Croonquist, humble about her accomplishments, said she was on a team of other talented girls. Since many of last year’s teammates graduated, many of this year’s U.S. rowers are young like her, she said.
“I’m exited its’ a young team,” she said. “We can only improve.”