Turning to Rowing after Suffering Knee Injury, PHS Grad Linsley Heading to Junior Worlds
PULLING AHEAD: Morgan Linsley, center, competes for the U.S. U-19 women’s four in recent action. Recent Princeton High grad and Duke University commit Linsley is heading to Tokyo next week to row for the U.S. in 2019 World Rowing Junior Championships in Tokyo, Japan.
By Bill Alden
For Morgan Linsley, suffering a knee injury put her on the path to competing in rowing on the world stage.
After being involved in competitive swimming for nine years, Linsley hurt her knee in eighth grade and was forced to take a hiatus from the pool. When she recovered, Linsley realized that she needed to find a new athletic outlet as she entered her freshman year at Princeton High in 2015.
“I saw that I had lost a lot of my swimming ability since I had to take a whole year off,” said Linsley.
“I wanted to try a new sport. My knee doctor was the wife of the Princeton men’s crew coach [Greg Hughes] and she said I could be a good rower so give it a shot.”
Giving rowing a shot, Linsley headed over to Mercer Lake to join the Princeton National Rowing Association Mercer Junior Rowing (PNRA-Mercer) club.
“It is so different from every other sport and motion, rowing is so different from everything,” said Linsley.
“It was so hard to shift over. I had trained hard when I was a swimmer, but not to the level that was expected of me when I started rowing.”
Linsley developed into a high-level rower at Mercer, moving up to the second varsity eight as a sophomore and then helping the top women’s eight take fourth this spring at the USRowing Youth National Championships.
Last summer, she competed for the U.S. junior program at the CanAmMexico regatta. In June, the recent PHS grad was named to the U.S. U-19 team and will compete next week at the 2019 World Rowing Junior Championships in Tokyo, Japan.
Reflecting on her rise to the international rowing arena, Linsley credits her Mercer experience with laying the foundation for her progress.
“Rowing on Mercer was probably the greatest decision I have made, coach Matthew Carlsen taught me everything; I would not have made this junior national team if it wasn’t for him,” said Linsley, who has committed to attend Duke University and row for its women’s program.
“He instilled such an idea of a work ethic. Practice is your priority when you are at the boathouse, you are focusing just on rowing. You want to get to that next level and do everything you physically can to get your boat forward.”
Getting to the chance to compete for the U.S program last summer was another big step for Linsley.
“I got to go race in Mexico, which was a really great experience,” said Linsley. “It sets you up for junior worlds, which is why I came back this year.”
Making the U.S. U19 team this year didn’t come easy for Linsley.
“First, you go to a one day ID (identification) camp, where you do a 2-k on the ERG (ergometer) and then you go on the water and the coaches watch you and assess your abilities,” said Linsley.
“From there, you get an invitation to the Selection Camp. The camp was held in Connecticut and we rowed out of the Coast Guard Academy boathouse. We rowed there for three weeks. We would do ERG pieces, we would do a lot of rowing pieces. In those three weeks, they decide who the team is going to be.”
For Linsley, finding out that she had been selected for the team was a special moment.
“It was amazing, knowing that all of the hard work and everything I have put into the past four years actually was worth it,” said Linsley.
“Being able to call my college coaches and tell them that I made it and being able to tell my family and my coaches at Mercer was the best moment that I have had in my life so far.”
Currently, Linsley is putting in a lot of time on Lake Carnegie as the U.S. squad is going through its final preparations.
“It is generally two-a-day practices, somewhere between three and four hours,” said Linsley, noting that the rowers are staying at the Marriott hotel next to Princeton MarketFair and run from the hotel to the boathouse for their morning practice.
“We stretch, warm up, and go on the water for many hours. Our coaches put extra water bottles in ice coolers to keep them on their launches and they throw them to us. We run out of water because they keep us out there for quite a while. We go home for a couple of hours between practices and then head back. It is two three-hour sessions, that includes meeting with our coaches. We also have some weight training. They are trying to make us into the fastest athletes in the world in our age group as fast as they can.”
That intensive training has been yielding dividends for Linsley. “I think that my technique has improved a lot; all you think about is rowing everything we do is just about rowing all day, every day,” said Linsley, who has been rowing for the women’s four with coxswain for the team.
“It is just a level I couldn’t do at high school. I don’t think I have improved this quickly before. It is really amazing to see that everyone is improving.”
Looking ahead to the competition in Tokyo, which is slated for August 7-11, Linsley and her teammates hope that improvement results in many trips to the podium. “Our team goal is to medal in every event,” said Linsley.
“They medaled in every event last year and our coaches want us to do that or better.”
No matter how many medals the U.S. earns in Tokyo, Linsley sees her summer with the national program as ideal preparation for her college career.
“I think it is going to set me up really, really well to be able to train like this, it is what training at Duke is going to be like with two-a-day practices,” said Linsley, noting that the Blue Devils sometimes have back-to-back practices in the morning where they are on the water towing and then return to campus for a lifting or ERG session right after. “This rigorous training is going to prepare me to go swinging into my fall season.”
Buoyed by her club and national success, Linsley is looking to help Duke become a powerhouse in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“I just want to help them win ACCs, I didn’t know what boat I am going to end up on,” said Linsley.
“This year was the closest they have ever come to winning. They were only five points off of Virginia, which was a huge step for Duke. It is a building rowing team while UVa has always been a top dog. They won their first gold medal at ACCs and I want to go in there and help them win more. We want to be the first Duke team to win the ACC.”