Phelps earns spot on USRowing team for world juniors

When Nate Phelps received an invitation to attend the USRowing U19 national team selection camp last summer, he declined.

“I knew I wouldn’t have made the team then,” said Phelps, a Ridgefield resident who recently graduated from St. Luke’s School in New Canaan.

But when another invite arrived a few months ago, Phelps didn’t have to think twice about accepting.

“I felt that my chances were pretty good for making the team this year …” he said.

Phelps was right.

Following an impressive showing at the selection camp in Chula Vista, Calif., Phelps was one of 59 rowers named to the USRowing U19 national team that will compete at the 2018 World Rowing Junior Championships (Aug. 8-12) in Racice, Czech Republic. The U.S. will have 14 crews competing at the five-day regatta.

Phelps was chosen for the U.S. men’s quadruple sculls boat along with Emory Sammons (Fort Plain, N.Y.), James Wright (Philadelphia), and Kristopher Schumann (Sarasota, Fla.). Sammons, Wright and Schumann were all members of last year’s U19 national team.

Phelps, who will continue his rowing career at Princeton University in the fall, was heartened by his performance at the selection camp.

“We did pieces on the erg machine and pieces on the water to prove we were faster than other individuals,” said Phelps about the training-camp format. “I felt very encouraged for my selection by winning all my seat races and putting up the fastest overall times for the erg testing.”

Phelps and his teammates are now practicing at the USRowing training facility in Princeton before leaving for the world junior championships.

“We wake up around 5:15, have breakfast, and then get to the boathouse by 6:30 and warm up until we get the boat on the water at 7,” said Phelps about the daily practice schedule. “Then we row until around 10. Then we eat a brunch, either nap or do another 65 minutes of recovery work on the bike or running. Then we eat again and have another practice around 4 that goes until around 6. Then we eat dinner around 7 and go to sleep by 9 or 10.”

Phelps is a relative newcomer to the sport — he began rowing just three years ago at the Maritime Rowing Club in Norwalk, where he still trains.

“I started because one of the seniors at my school (St. Luke’s) when I was a freshman, Andrew Langalis, would announce rowing results and opportunities every week and he announced the national championship (which Langalis won as part of a Maritime Rowing Club crew),” said Phelps. “Three years later I helped (Maritime) win for the fourth year in a row, which Andrew had helped start in 2015.”

Phelps says part of rowing’s appeal is in its difference.

“Rowing is very unique from any other sport I had played — rugby, football, lacrosse, or even ski racing — because the team has to be so much closer because of how intense and long the training is,” said Phelps. “Also, the racing aspect is different from running or skiing because you have to sync with your boat and rely on them, you cannot win a race alone.

“I think most outsiders to rowing do not understand why rowers are so involved or why it is so all consuming,” added Phelps. “I’d say this is because of the shared struggle with your team, the long hours put in, the far trips to races, and the brief moments of glory. Also, rowing is a sport driven by hard work, so you can make sure you work the hardest and the results will come.”

Phelps and his teammates will look to translate their hard work into a medal-winning performance at the upcoming world junior championships.

“A successful race on paper would be breaking six minutes over 2,000 meters,” said Phelps. “But in terms of the rowing it would be feeling the boat run together and building off of each other positively.”