With a time of 19 minutes and 30 seconds, Anna Matthes ’18 beat out 24 rowers from around the globe to win first place in the Women’s Youth Singles event at the 53rd annual Head of the Charles Regatta (HOCR) on October 22.
The 4800-meter course began at 8:31 a.m. at Boston University’s Dewolfe Boathouse, continued past the school and Anna’s club, Cambridge Boat Club (CBC), and finished at Northeastern’s Henderson Boathouse.
Although Anna participated in the past two years’ HOCR, this was her first time racing the event in a single, since her former doubles partner graduated last year.
“I took this as an opportunity to try something new and challenge myself,” she said, identifying steering the boat by herself as one such challenge.
Another less foreseeable challenge involved equipment trouble.
While the start of the race went smoothly, Anna said, the end felt nerve-wracking because the foot stretcher—which connects the rower’s shoes to the boat—detached, translating into a loss of applied power and causing Anna’s splits to increase.
“Luckily, my coach is really good at preparing me for staying calm when things go wrong, so I did the best that I could,” she said. “Right before the sprint, the foot stretchers wedged into place, and I was able to sprint really hard. I was nervous but still hopeful because I had passed several of the rowers in the race before me.”
Anna impressed her classmates when she rowed past the school’s boathouse a few minutes before the finish.
“It was absolutely incredible to see her passing rowers in the event,” said Sophie Collins Arroyo ’19, who rows in the fourth boat bow seat for Girls’ Varsity Crew. “I think everyone on the dock was amazed that she was going by as early as she was.”
Abby Ford ’19, who rows with the school team, agreed.
“We were waiting for the first seed in the event, and all of the sudden Anna came around the Eliot turn before people had finished the previous turn—she was amazing.”
Anna ultimately finished with the fastest time, with Julia Knowles from Founders Rowing Club in Dallas, Texas, trailing a minute and 17 seconds behind her in second place.
Anna attributed her success in the regatta to her extensive training schedule and to the fact that rowing is a sport that rewards those who put in the work.
“I did pieces with faster boats [at CBC] to push myself and did several practice races on the course,” she said. “I also put in a lot of hours of training this summer with the junior national team, which definitely helped with my fitness for this fall.”
Anna began rowing in eighth grade at CRI because both of her parents row and she wanted to try it herself. She rowed with the school for a year before waivering out of sports to train at CBC for regattas like HOCR.
“Pushing beyond physical and mental barriers is very rewarding and inspires me to push myself in other areas of my life.