Paradise and Back without Skipping a Stroke
August 18, 2012
In the months before Mia Croonquist won gold in the junior women’s four at the 2011 Junior World Championships in Eton Dorney course in England she was thinking about what she would do after her summer ended.
Her plans did not include rowing.
“I decided to [attend school in Hawaii] because my parents presented me with the opportunity,” said Croonquist.
“They’d asked my brother a few years ago, but he actually wanted to finish out with his friends on Vashon Island. I was too young then, but I really liked the idea. So freshman year in December I asked my parents if I could do that since I love traveling and trying new things.”
A two-time member of the junior national team Croonquist is currently competing in her second consecutive junior world championships in the junior women’s eight and races in the final tomorrow.
After parting the team, and rowing, on a positive note last August she spent nine months studying at Hawaii Preparatory Academy in Hawaii.
Before heading there she new that the positive aspects of spending a sophomore year away from home were counterbalanced by the potential affect of limited rowing opportunities on her ability to make the 2012 junior national team.
“She is mature way beyond her chronological age and had high standards for herself,” said Vashon Island Crew coach Richard Parr. “She has a great head on her shoulders.”
With the support of her family, and blessing of her coaches, Croonquist exchanged the familiarity and comfort of Vashon Island, Wash., for the Aloha state.
There she said hello to some new athletic feats to fill the rowing void and to maintain a fitness base.
“I started out with cross-country, I was never really been a runner before,” said Croonquist.
Her rowing hiatus was short lived.
And as her teammates and other junior national team hopefuls honed their skills thousands of miles away, Croonquist found herself learning a different stroke.
She tried paddling an outrigger canoe.
“A big favorite was when I did outrigger canoe paddling for my second sport. It was so fun and I had amazing coaches, sort of like world-class rowers too. I think I just loved it because I got to be back out on the water everyday,” she said.
“It was way different than rowing, but at the same time it got me in shape, got me on the water and got me moving in time with other people,” said Croonquist.
“We were out on the ocean in a sort of sheltered area. Nice and fun with good blue waters and fun waves. Just like rowing waters, calm most of the time with a few days of waves.”
At the end of the school year Croonquist headed back to continental United States for a two-and a half-week period. Her return trip was highly anticipated being that her stay at home equally brief as the previous August.
This time her plans included a revisiting the “mainland form of paddling.”
Since her homecoming from Hawaii, Croonquist quickly transitioned back into the mindset and feel of rowing. She also earned a spot on this year’s junior national team to become one of six returning members.
“You can find plenty of girls Mia’s size, but it’s not easy to find a girl Mia’s size with such a good head on her shoulders,” said Parr.
“She came back and made some quick gains. Going into selection she was not as fit as she was last year but she knows what it takes and how to work hard.”
Without skipping a stroke Croonquist managed to fulfill her plans and pick up a few new skills along the way.
After the 2012 Junior World Championships she plans to head back to begin her junior year of high school in Washington but in the meantime racing with the team will just have to suffice.
“I’m actually really honored to be able to make the team again this year," said Croonquist. “I’m excited to go to Bulgaria and to experience the culture and see their lifestyle. It really is an awesome bunch of girls this year and to get to go over there with them will make the experience for me.”
For complete event coverage, schedules and results, visit http://www.usrowing.org/Pressbox/12SrJrWorldsChampions.aspx
Monica Worsley, photo by Ed Moran