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Elizabeth Forward students finding success as rowers

| Wednesday, May 8, 2013, 11:45 p.m.
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Elizabeth Forward's Abby Guenther and Maddie Hill are part of the Three Rivers Rowing Association.

Abby Guenther doesn't have a particularly romantic, inspiring or humorous story for how she ended up being one of the area's top rowers for her age group.

“It was kind of random,” said Guenther, a sophomore at Elizabeth Forward. “I woke up one day and said I wanted to row. My parents looked into it, and that was that.

“I joined a summer rowing program, and I loved it. So I joined a team.”

She took one of her best friends with her. Now, Guenther and Maddie Hill are two girls from the Mon Valley who are part of a Three Rivers Rowing Association team that typically draws its rowers from closer to its Washington's Landing headquarters.

Late last month, Guenther and Hill, also a sophomore at EF, were part of boats that placed highly at a pair of regattas in Ohio: the Governor's Cup in Columbus and the Cincinnati Invitational.

Guenther and Hill didn't take up rowing until about a year ago. In a relatively short period of time, each has built a proficiency for the sport — and a love of it.

“Just the team aspect, we have a pretty great team, and being so close to each other you just trust everyone to be moving as one,” Guenther said. “Whether it's eight or four people, when you're synchronized, it's pretty great. Plus, the scholarship opportunities that girls can have is unbelievable.”

Should Guenther and Hill keep on the trajectory each has shown in rowing success over their first year, who knows how far each can go in the sport? Both were part of a Three Rivers “Novice 4” team that won a gold medal from Columbus and earned a silver medal in the “Novice 8” from Columbus.

A few years back, Hill's mother had reached out to Three Rivers Rowing and potential sponsors about bringing a boathouse to the Mon Valley. It ultimately fell through, but when Guenther got the rowing bug from watching it during the Olympics, it didn't take long for her and Hill to be hooked.

“I don't know how to explain it, really, but when you're out there on the water and the boat has really good chemistry and you're going really fast and it's really powerful and everything, it really makes you feel real excited and makes you feel happy,” Hill said.

“That feeling just gives you the motivation train and work hard. ... Throughout it all, it makes me a little bit better of a person.”

Each day after school, Guenther and Hill make a 45-minute commute to Washington's Landing for three-hour practices. Both say that supporting each other and pushing each other have helped them adapt to the sport.

“The ones who are very good at rowing are the ones who come to practice and are dedicated,” Guenther said. “People who have natural talent and a strong core and really good technique help, but I think dedication comes very much into play.”

Next season, Guenther and Hill will have graduated from the Novice level, which is generally reserved for first-year rowers. Each has her sights set even higher. Both have eyes on top universities.

But that's not all.

“I'm not going to lie,” Hill said, “when Abby and I first started, I was dreaming of going to the Olympics for it.”

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