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Nathaniel Hill is currently in his second season rowing for the Valley Regional crew. This year, the Warriors have enough enrollment on the boys' side to field a team of two boats of four, and Nathaniel rows in the crew's first boat. (Photo courtesy of Nathaniel Hill )
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Nathaniel Hill has become a key component for the Valley Regional crew in a short period of time. Nathaniel is a sophomore at Valley, and he's helped the Warriors recruit enough athletes to produce two boats of four on the boys' side of the team. While the Valley crew continues coming into its own as a program, Nathaniel is impressing as one of the squad's top rowers.
After spending some time in the water as a swimmer, Nathaniel decided to expand his horizons and try rowing through a short program at Lake Pattagansett in East Lyme. Once Nathaniel determined that rowing was for him, he wanted to join Valley's crew. At the time, there weren't that many boys on the team, and the only way Nathaniel could participate was as a coxswain. That is, until Nathaniel started recruiting some potential teammates.
"The team didn't have enough boys for a full boat, and I really wanted to be a rower. So, I went to one of my friends who also was thinking about rowing. We decided that we wanted to do this," Nathaniel says. "We went around to some friends, and we all decided to give it a try. Last year, we had six guys, and it was perfect because we needed four for a boat. It ended up working out pretty nicely."
Nathaniel's affinity for the water stems from a long tradition of being on the Connecticut River in his family's motor boat. That led him to first pursue swimming and, ultimately, a spot on the Warriors' crew.
"I'd say one of my big hobbies in the spring, summer, and fall is going out on the water on our little boat. I really like being out on the water," says Nathaniel. "I've been on the water my whole life. With crew, I can be on the water, in a boat, and getting exercise."
Nathaniel, an Ivoryton resident, had never participated in a sport quite like rowing. He really likes the team dynamic and how every member of the crew needs to rely on the person next to them.
"You need all four rowers to be doing the same amount. Everyone is counting on every other person," Nathaniel says. "If one person isn't in the right mindset, the whole boat isn't doing well. I don't think that any other team sport has that type of atmosphere."
As the Valley crew burgeons, Nathaniel feels grateful to see how far he and his fellow teammates have come. Now that the enrollment is growing, the Warriors will be able field a boys' team at New England Interscholastic Rowing Association (NEIRA) regattas for the first time this year. Nathaniel competes as a rower in the boys' first boat.
"I'm most proud this year of how much the boys' team has grown. Last year, we had six guys rowing and, now, we have eight or nine," says Nathaniel. "We have two boys' four boats, and you need to have two boats to qualify for NEIRA, so that means we can qualify."
Nathaniel often finds himself trying to settle his nerves before a big race, especially when the Warriors are going up against some of the premier schools in the NEIRA. Last year, Valley took part in the Saratoga Invitational, a huge regatta in upstate New York. The Warriors mostly compete in smaller regattas with only a few schools at a time, but this race was the big time.
"There are definitely more nerves if it's a big event like when we went to the Saratoga Invitational with 10 lanes. I was definitely a little bit nervous racing in that environment," Nathaniel says. "I had to reassure myself that I was ready for it. It helps calm my nerves. When I'm looking at a school, thinking how tough they'll be because they are well put together, I remember that they are hopefully looking at us the same way."
Valley crew Head Coach John Laundon sees the positive effect that Nathaniel has on his squad. Laundon knows that Nathaniel has worked hard to become a solid rower and believes he has a chance to get to the next level.
"This is Nathaniel's second year, and he participated in my winter training program. He's enthusiastic, he's dependable, and he's a good rower. We only have two boys' four boats. He's in the first boat. Both races that he's had, he's done pretty well," says Laundon. "He definitely has potential to improve a lot physically over the next two years. I think he has a fine chance to row in college as a lightweight. Not every college that has rowing has a lightweight team, but he's definitely a candidate."
In the end, Nathaniel knows that it isn't just his hard work that's helped him become a large part of the Valley crew; it's also the support that he's received. Nathaniel appreciates everyone who's contributed to his success.
"I definitely want to thank Coach Laundon for coaching us and giving us the opportunity to grow. Without him, we wouldn't even be able to have a team. I'd also like to thank [senior captain] Tessa LeMay. She motivates us to try our best. It will be completely different without her next year. She and her mom Tracy LeMay, who is head of our booster club, help organize so much," Nathaniel says. "Also, I want to thank my parents, Kim and Chris Hill, for supporting me throughout all of this. They come to all the races that they can, and they're always driving me to practices even at seven o'clock in the morning."
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