Rowers develop chemistry, qualify for nationals


Saturday, May 25, 2024, TRIB-LIVE

There are a lot of things that Lucas Gravina enjoys about rowing. When the Fox Chapel senior competes for the club team, he feels a sense of belonging with the people who share the boat.

This year, Gravina qualified for the Scholastic Rowing Association of America National Championships in Pennsauken, N.J.

In order to qualify, Gravina and his partner, Niko Vavpetic, had to compete in a Midwest Regional qualifier in Michigan. It meant a long road trip with the team.

“The thing that drew me to the sport was the camaraderie,” Gravina said. “It is one of the most team sports out there. Success hinges on every person pushing themselves. I like rowing because it pushes you extremely far in a really short amount of time — mentally as much as physically.”

Gravina and Vavpetic will compete against an immense amount of competition at the SRAA National Championships. There are 450 entries from more than 150 clubs.

Gravina and Vavpetic qualified in the double. Each competitor is in the boat with two oars and there is no coxswain. Gravina used to row with Vavpetic’s older brother.

He said that he and Vavpetic had previously rowed together in larger boats. They started developing chemistry early this season.

“Niko and I have been in the double for the entirety of this year, for the fall and spring seasons,” Gravina said. “The way we were chosen to be in the double was a combination of on-the-water technique and our ERG times. The ERG is a machine we use on land to practice for being in the water.”

Gravina said he isn’t sure what to expect during his first national competitions. While all of Fox Chapel’s competitions are on lakes, the teams train a lot on the river. While Gravina believes they are adaptable enough to compete in any environment, it is difficult to compare times because of how different teams train.

When it comes to goals, Gravina said that they would like to make the “A” race. He expects 12 to 14 teams in his division and would like to finish in the top six to race for a championship.

Gravina said that he and Vavpetic quickly formed a strong team. He would like to see the work they put in end on a high note.

“We rode in some larger boats together before,” Gravina said. “Before this season, we were looking to create some fast boats. His ERG times were exceptional. Because we were fast and our technique felt good, we were going to stick with that boat for the rest of the season.”