Before entering high school in 2010, Beatrice Sclapari enjoyed performing on the stage, concentrating on singing and acting.
But after going to a Mercer Junior Rowing Club (MJRC) camp weeks before her freshman year at Princeton High, Sclapari ended up deciding that she might enjoy performing on the water.
“I really liked the camp but I didn’t know if I was going to continue,” recalled Sclapari.
“I had not done competitive sports. I rowed in the fall season and I knew it was for me, things really clicked. Your teammates are always around you. Everyone is supporting each other; I had never felt that in any other thing I did.”
Earlier this month, Sclapari excelled for the club on a big stage, helping the MJRC women’s youth lightweight 8+ take third at the USRowing’s Youth National Championships on Melton Hill Lake in Oak Ridge, Tenn.
For Sclapari, moving up to varsity as a sophomore helped transform her into a more ambitious competitor.
“As a novice, I did rowing because of fun and being with teammates,” said Sclapari, a junior.
“On varsity, it is more competitive. I had a lot of improvement to make. You get out what you put into it. I saw results when I stayed after practice and did extra work. It didn’t happen right away but I saw the improvements. It was rewarding.”
Sclapari’s hard work as a sophomore was rewarded by her first trip to the nationals.
“I was on the lightweight 8 in the spring; we were second in the regionals and qualified for the nationals,” said Sclapari. “We went to nationals with no expectations and got eighth.”
Being at the nationals raised Sclapari’s expectations of what she could achieve as a rower.
“It was really important for me,” she asserted. “I saw that there were other rowers who were a lot faster and that wasn’t a negative. It just showed that there is always a next level and that we needed to work hard to get to that level.”
This spring, the lightweight 8 showed early on that it was destined to reach a high level.
“A few days before the regional we put together the lightweight 8,” said Sclapari. “We raced well in the regionals and won by open water. That showed us that we had a chance to do well at the nationals.”
In preparing for the
national regatta, the boat got progressively better. “We clicked from the first practice, we came together and each day we were getting faster,” said Sclapari.
“We looked at the other teams in the regatta; we had the fastest time of any boat in the regionals so we were confident going in. We knew it was going to be a fight.”
The MJRC boat got off to a fast start at the nationals, placing first in both its opening heat and semifinal race.
“We won the heat by open water,” said Sclapari. “In the semis, the Oakland Strokes were in the next lane. We got off to a great start. We got our bow in front. I think we caught them off guard, they didn’t know who Mercer was.”
In the national championship race, the boat started hard but ran out of gas down the stretch. “In the final, we knew we had to get our bow out front and stay ahead,” said Sclapari, who rowed in the 4-seat at the nationals.
“In the first 500 meters, we were trying to keep up with the Oakland Strokes (the eventual champion). We never got settled. We were tired, we couldn’t sprint in the last 500. We were disappointed when we crossed the finish line.”
With some time having passed, Sclapari and her boatmates realize that they have no cause to be disappointed.
“We are so happy,” said Sclapari of the boat, which also included Vicki Jorgenson, Christie Samios, Rena White, Katie Sessa, Angelica Escuadro, Rachel Calabro, Kate Hickey, and coxswain Noa Rothstein.
“Before regionals, we never thought we were going to medal at nationals. We were only together for about four or five weeks and we went from eighth last year to third. We want to do even better next year.”
Sclapari, for her part, will be taking a leading role next year as she was recently elected as one of the MJRC team captains for her senior season.
“I was very excited, I couldn’t be happier,” said Sclapari, who is planning to row in college at the D-I level and will be starting the recruiting process this July.
“It is such a great group of girls. I want to be open and welcoming to the new rowers and push the girls who are coming back.”