— NCAA (@NCAA) March 30, 2020
Rowing Seniors Back For More
Like many other student-athletes, the senior season for four University of Miami rowers did not turn out as planned. The rowers, Halle Alitz, Loretta Brueckner, Madeline Parente, Victoria Stewart and Demetra Vlahos, saw their season start and end in less than 24 hours. One moment they were on a bus headed to the season opener, and the next the news broke that the 2020 rowing season had officially been suspended due to COVID-19.
For these seniors, all of whom were four-year members of the rowing team, the news was heart-breaking.
“I honestly wasn’t ready for rowing to end in general let alone so quickly due to COVID,” senior Victoria Stewart said. “I absolutely love the team, the coaching staff I don’t think could care about us anymore than they already do and just the grid of it, knowing how much work you put in and seeing the results is the best feeling.”
Over the next couple of months, they would miss out on practices and races, on classes and graduation. Then, on March 30, everything changed.
The official ruling from the NCAA extended the five-year “clock” for spring-sport student-athletes by one year for those who had competed while eligible in the COVID-19-shortened 2020 spring season.
“Two months later, the [seniors] had grappled with the lows of losing their season and realizing rowing might be over and the highs of seeing rules get put in place that gave them another chance to compete.” head coach Dave Sanderson said.
Choosing to use that extra season was a tough choice that the senior class had to make. Plans were already being made for post-graduation life and the group was forced to reimagine their life after college in order to actually use that extra season.
Ultimately, for senior Halle Alitz, it came down to the chance to row for one more season and the opportunity to earn a graduate degree from Miami.
“The ability to get a postgraduate degree in a great program at UM made it an even easier decision, and I’m very excited for the opportunities this next year will bring!” said Alitz.
The opportunity to have a ‘do over’ season, as Sanderson calls it, provides the senior rowers with a chance to realize their goals.
“My goals for my last season are the same as every season; to continue to get better for myself and for my team and help the other girls get better, too,” Stewart said. “Our team has been getting better and better every year and I’m so excited to be here for another year to see what all we achieve!”
Like Stewart, Sanderson was very pleased with the progress that the team was making leading up to the spring season.
“I am certain the returning seniors rowing experience and mature leadership will be incredibly valuable in 2020-21,” Sanderson said. “However, I think far more powerful, will be the perspectives that this group will bring to the team through their ongoing experience with COVID-19. These seniors have had to navigate some tough situations and weighty decisions in a very short window of time. We are so proud of them for how they have handled all of it and can’t wait to have them on the team next season.”