Close to Home: HOCR Extra Special to Cambridge High Schoolers

By Zolan Kanno-Youngs | Published on October 20, 2013

For one weekend every October, the rowing world comes to the Charles River. It is special to all of them. But one high school crew feels a special kinship to the river, not because of the big Regatta, but because for them it is simply home.

“There’s about a billion rivers in the world, we get to be the home of this river,” said Phoebe Hogue-Rodley, a former rower for Cambridge Rindge and Latin (CRLS) High School crew team. “I just feel grateful and proud.”

Hogue-Rodley, a graduate from the CRLS class of 2013, rowed in the Head of the Charles in each of her four years representing the only public high school in Cambridge. During Dale Wickenheiser’s 14-year tenure (2000-2013) as head coach of the boys and girls rowing teams, the Falcons have had at least one boys and one girls boat in the Regatta every year.

For some of those years, CRLS entered the Regatta with a guaranteed bid by placing in the top 50 percent of their heat. Other years, like this one, when they didn’t place in the top 50 percent, the Falcons returned after being chosen from a lottery of Massachusetts’s schools.

And other years, they earned an entry by trading hours of volunteer work for the Regatta. In years past, the students have set up and broken down the tents of the regatta, worked its food stands, sold programs, or even worked security at entrances and exits.

They simply feel they belong in the Regatta.

“Every day for two-and-a-half hours we’re on this water,” first-year coach Marcus Caimi said. “We know this course pretty well. We have an intimate connection with the river, we know about the turns and the different bridges, we know where they take splits, we know a lot about the course and I think that definitely helps us.”

Senior coxswain for CRLS, Benjamin Schooler reinforces his coach’s words. “This is our home and we kind of have to defend it against everyone else,” he said. “We have to take it as hard as we can to defend our home.”

The grandeur of the Regatta also give the CRLS kids a keener appreciation for what they have here. “Just thinking that our freshman coxswains are pushing down the same rivers that people travel thousands of miles to navigate and often can’t successfully navigate, I think that’s really incredible,” Hogue-Rodley said.

While many members of the team said racing in the event could raise the most excitement, it is only one part of the experience. They also get the opportunity to meet some of the best rowers from around the world.

“It puts a human element to it. Suddenly, they’re in reach,” Wickenheiser said. “They can shake these peoples hands they can talk to them and that really helps to humanize the sport and suddenly being on a national team, being in college in a rowing program becomes much more possible.”

With so many of those famous athletes present during the weekend, the young rowers realize it can be hard to get any sort of acknowledgement, whether they’re selling food, programs or on the water.

But having the Head Of The Charles in their backyard makes it all worth it for the Falcons.

“This is a huge regatta so in retrospect we’re a small part of it,” Schooler said. “But everyday we launch out right below the offices that run this place so it’s kind of amazing to be going out on the very famous course.”


Volunteer for HOCR

image description

Make this year’s Head Of The Charles® a success. There are many opportunities to get involved over race weekend and before.