For Caroline Lammersen, rowing is the ultimate team sport.
“When eight people all put their energy into the same sequence of strokes, there’s nothing like it, she said. “It’s so satisfying and rewarding.”
The 2020 graduate of St. Francis High developed a passion for crew in eighth grade, and her devotion to the sport helped Lammersen land a scholarship to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Several other colleges recruited her as well – including UC Berkeley, Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania and USC – but the Los Altos resident said her visits to the North Carolina campus last summer and fall sealed the deal. She committed on Halloween.
“UNC had the most impact on me,” Lammersen said. “My first visit impression was that I really liked the overall community – it’s very diverse and there are a lot of opportunities for people, no matter what your path is. And the facilities here are better than any other school I saw – by far.”
Lammersen was in her first week of classes at North Carolina when interviewed by the Town Crier Aug. 13. That day, there were only 17 reported cases of COVID-19 on campus, according to the school’s online tracker. On Aug. 19, there were 91 cases recorded.
Lammersen began the school year with only one in-person class, she said, and her 50-member crew team – tested weekly for the virus – was not practicing together yet. Now, all of her classes have moved online due to the surge in cases, and her training has been paused.
“It’s an ambiguous time to be a student in college and not knowing what the season will hold,” Lammersen said Aug. 13 (she could not be reached for comment last week). “I don’t expect us to row until late September. But I’m letting the coaches figure it out, and they’re keeping us informed.”
Lammersen’s training had been limited to working out with three teammates she lived with on campus. They had yet to row together, however.
Putting in the work
Lammersen isn’t used to being away from the water for so long. Since joining NorCal Crew of Redwood City in eighth grade, rowing has been a huge part of her life.
“I recently calculated (that I devoted) 20 to 25 hours per week in high school for around 30 weeks per year,” she said. “I missed only 15 practices over five years, illnesses excluded.”
If those 5 a.m. practices at the often-chilly Bair Island Aquatic Center during the school year weren’t enough, Lammersen spent a month of each summer at a rowing camp out of state.
“In high school, I sacrificed a lot for rowing,” the 18-year-old said. “That’s why I wanted to choose a college with a good balance of academics and athletics. I didn’t want rowing to be a stressor in my life. There’s an understanding environment at UNC. It’s not the top competitive team, but it made the most sense for me.”
While the Tar Heels’ fall season has been canceled, Lammersen held out hope that the longer spring season would still happen.
“Fall ended before it started, which I expected, to be honest,” she said. “The spring season, which is the main competition season, starts around March and goes into May or even later. ... We’re all preparing for that.”
The 5-foot-10 Lammersen – who competes in boats of four and eight – can’t wait. She even misses those grueling practices.
“I like that it’s physically excruciating and so demanding,” she said. “No muscle in your body doesn’t hurt after practice. But it’s one of the most satisfying things.”