July 28, 2022 — NMH rower Ella Wheeler ’23 will race at the 2022 World Rowing Under 19 Championships in Varese, Italy, from July 27 to 31. She qualified in early July and was named to the USRowing Under 19 national team to represent the United States at the world rowing championships. She will race with the women’s four with coxswain boat.
“It is a pretty big deal to be selected for worlds,” Wheeler said during a break in race preparations in Italy, where she arrived last week. “I’m pretty sure that this is the highest level of competition for someone my age.”
Wheeler, who is 17, was surprised to make the under-19 national team but noted that her NMH rowing experience — combined with six weeks of training at the national team selection camp in Chula Vista, California — helped pave her way to Italy. (Rowers apply and must be invited to attend the selection camp.)
“This type of competition is new territory for me,” she said. “It is definitely more mentally tough than high school racing, but the NMH coaches worked with us this year on the mental aspect of training, which helped me feel more prepared for higher intensity competition.”
NMH Athletic Director Debby Ghezzi said, “Ella has certainly put in the hours on and off the water to make these types of dreams a reality.”
Wheeler, who will be a senior this fall, has been a member of the NMH girls’ varsity rowing team since arriving at NMH as a 10th grader but only took up the sport the previous year. Before that, she had been a swimmer. “Rowing is not a very diverse sport,” noted Wheeler, who is Black, “and I like getting to be a part of it, especially at NMH.
“When I started out, I knew nothing about rowing,” Wheeler added. “And before NMH, I was very strong, but my boat skills weren’t very good. Unlike some other sports, rowing is an accessible sport to start in high school, as long as you learn the techniques. After that, you can get better just by rowing a lot. At NMH, my coaches helped me improve my technique and then gave me lots of opportunities to practice. In just one year, I improved so much.”
She added, “Our coaches meet us at our level but also do a really good job of providing extra help if that’s something you want. If it weren’t for my coaches setting up opportunities for me to get extra help with technique and more time practicing, I wouldn’t be as good as I am now. The best coaching I have had is at NMH.”
Wheeler has been a top performer in the NMH rowing program and will start the fall season as the fastest rower on the girls’ varsity team.
In February, she won the USRowing Indoor National Championships/C.R.A.S.H.-B. Sprints, which was held virtually, placing first in her category out of 132 women under age 19.
Wheeler expressed her gratitude for her NMH teammates and coaches, as well as for the Draper Riverhouse, the school’s new, 7,000-square-foot boathouse on the Connecticut River, which opened to the rowing program in September of 2020. The boathouse won two awards from the American Institute of Architects New England for its design. The two-bay boathouse includes additional outdoor storage for the program’s sweep-boat fleet, as well as skylights and light wells to allow natural light to enter the ground-floor boat bays.
“It was designed with a lot of thought about how people were going to use it, so it’s very functional, and it’s a beautiful space where you can focus on your sport,” she said. “I especially love when I go down there to erg while the sun is rising in the morning. It feels so good and makes me want to exercise more.” (When being on the water in a boat is not an option, rowers train using machines called ergometers, or “ergs” for short.)
Wheeler’s family — her mother, father, and two sisters — will join her in Italy in time to watch her race later this week. After the world championships, they’ll stay in Italy a few extra days to enjoy a family vacation before returning home to South Orange, New Jersey. After a few weeks of down time, Wheeler said she’s eager to return to NMH in late August to get ready for fall classes, sports, and other activities. She’ll be a Resident Leader this year and is eager to be a mentor and role model to students in her dorm.
“When I was new to NMH, I had a really good Resident Leader,” she said. “It was a weird time because I came in during the pandemic. There was so much time in your dorm, but my RL made it really fun. This year, I feel like I could be a good RL and I should pass that experience along.”
Wheeler has also been involved in a club for students interested in the fiber arts and looks forward to resuming that this fall.
“During remote school, I learned how to crochet, and then last year I learned how to knit,” she said. “We have a fun group on campus and we bring our own projects we’re working on so we can work together. It’s relaxing and therapeutic.”
As she considers life after NMH, Wheeler wants to continue rowing, so finding a college that suits her academically as well as includes a rowing program is important and exciting to her.
Her mother, Nancy L. Wheeler, is grateful for NMH’s investment in the rowing program.
“Rowing has been a wonderful part of Ella’s experience as a Northfield Mount Hermon student,” she said “Since the boathouse was unveiled, all of the rowers have taken full advantage of the riverhouse. And after only two years rowing at NMH, Ella is skilled enough to compete at worlds. So, so exciting.”
Other NMH rowers are having a fantastic summer, including:
- Sidney Curven ’22 was also invited to US Rowing's 2022 Women's U19 National Team Selection Camp and will row at UC Berkeley this fall.
- Margaux Moos ’24 won a silver medal at the national championships in Tennessee two weeks ago.
- Bella Moore ’23 also rowed at nationals in Tennessee and made the semifinals; came in first in the Philadelphia Youth Regatta, and will compete in the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta during the first week in August.
- Matt Provencal ’23 trained in the elite PennAC program in Philadelphia this summer and raced in two boats that made the finals at nationals in Oak Ridge.
- Sebastian Brandt ’23 is training in the elite CRI program in Boston this summer and will race at the Canadian Henley next week.
- Nathaniel Chase ’24 and Chris Sparrow '25 trained this summer with the Olympic Development Program in Chattanooga, which helps to identify younger rowers for future participation in the national team system.