Taking up rowing his freshman year at Webb School of Knoxville only as a way to stay in shape for basketball season, Fox Den resident Ryan Lee has instead discovered a whole new athletic world.
His world of rowing may soon expand, in college, to include either an Ivy League school or a prestigious institution in the Bay Area near San Francisco.
Lee’s path as one of Atomic Rowing Club’s top performers has led to Philadelphia’s historic Boathouse Row, thanks to an invitation to spend the summer — one of only 14 nationally — as a crew member of the prestigious Vesper Boat Club’s Junior (18-and-under) Program.
“It’s been rigorous, but it’s been everything that I could have needed it to be, both on a personal level and for the team,” said Lee, a rising senior at Webb who competes in eight-, four- and two-man regattas in sculling (using two oars per person) or sweeping (one oar). “I prefer sweeping.”
“It’s gone really well. It’s been a good group of guys,” he added.
“It’s been a lot of high-caliber racing.”
Located along the east bank of Schuylkill River, Vesper Boat Club “is an iconic place and this is an iconic club. … They win most everything they show up to,” Lee said. “So I was very much pleasantly surprised to find out I got in.”
In Club Nationals regatta featuring “most all the clubs in the U.S.” according to Lee, his Vesper team finished “ninth overall in the eight[man competition] that was a respectable result. … There might have been 22 teams entered in the race.”
However, as an entire club in all events, “Vesper won the club national championship, the overall trophy. … I think that’s about the fifth year in a row,” Lee said, describing Vesper as being among “probably 10 to 12 boathouses all next to one another with little yards between them, and they were all built at about the same time, in the 1860s.”
Evelyn Radford, Atomic head coach, said Lee “has really stepped up over the past few months. He’s demonstrated astonishing leadership in the short amount of time he’s been in our program.”
As for the process toward him being selected for Vesper, Lee said, “You had to fill out an application, and then you had a little, brief phone interview with coach Zach [Mondesire, coach].”
Learning has included “the pure volume of strokes. It’s six hours of rowing a day,” Lee said. “… And Zach has drilled a bunch on technical stuff in our head in the course of the program.”
Although saying about his choice of a college, “I don’t have all of it sorted out yet,” Lee, with a 4.2 grade point average, added, “The schools that are the best at rowing are usually in the Ivy [League]. Then there’s some in [Washington] D.C. like Georgetown and George Washington University. And the California schools like Cal Berkeley and Stanford as well as [University of] Washington.”