Local pair medal at rowing nationals
Wake up. Row. Go to school. Row. Go home. Go to sleep. Do it again.
This was life for Marissa Catalanotto and Ada Bielawski for about a month. While their friends were out enjoying the early signs of a carefree summer, Catalanotto, of Northport High School, and Bielawski, of Friends Academy, were out in the water in Oyster Bay. Their goal was national prominence. Last week, they got it.
Catalanotto and Bielawski, a senior and a sophomore who compete out of the Sagamore Rowing Association in Oyster Bay, took home bronze in the Women's Lightweight 2x Youth National Championship on Melton Hill Lake in Oak Ridge, Tenn., last Sunday. The duo finished the 2,000-meter race in 7 minutes, 48.242 seconds -- centimeters behind the second-place team from Connecticut's Sagautuck Rowing (7:47.788). Emma Landauer and Marygail Dibuono, of Westchester's Pelham Community Rowing, won in 7:45.088.
"It was literally a fight till the very end," said Catalanotto, who has earned a stacked scholarship to row for the University of Tulsa. "We were first for about 1,200 meters, and then a solid second and then, in the last five seconds, they got us."
Bielawski added that, "though there is that little twinge of what could have been, we're really happy we medaled at nationals," especially since this means the team is now ranked third in the country.
And the girls certainly earned those kudos -- often getting up around 5 a.m. to get to the water by 6. "It was pretty crazy," Bielawski said. "We'd come to the boat house, we'd row . . . the water's almost perfectly flat in the morning . . . we'd rush quickly to school, and after school, come back there. It was really physically tiring, but we knew we had to get it done."
Almost as tiring as the race itself, which Catalanotto described as an exhausting, emotional, mad dash to the finish. "I don't remember much of it because I had so much [invested] in it," she said. "I remember thinking, 'don't lose, you have to medal. You've worked too hard to come all the way out here to not medal.' "
Sacrifices, she said, including any semblance of a social life in the weeks before the race. "We couldn't stay out with friends," she said. "We didn't go out on Saturdays of weekends. It was definitely upsetting sometimes, but it was all worth it because we gained so much more in the water."