SUMMIT, NJ - Growing up as a softball player and a swimmer, Summit resident Marissa Jennings never imagined rowing in college. However, a year and a half ago, she started and quickly became one of the best in the area and is now headed to Southern Methodist University on a rowing scholarship. She is the first Summit athlete in the school's 124 year history to receive a Division 1 athletic scholarship for Women's Crew.
The SMU rowing program signed nine rowers and one coxswain to National Letters of Intent to compete starting in the 2012-13 season, head coach Doug Wright announced Monday.
"I am very excited with the athletes we signed for this early period,” Wright said. “Our staff has done a great job of identifying this group and getting them on campus to see what our program is all about.”
During her sophomore year, her father Brian was speaking to one of his co-workers who rowed in college and thought his daughter would be good at the sport. He suggested she should try it out and, once she did, she fell in love with it.
She eventually left softball and joined the Westfield Crew Club her junior year where she found her true athletic passion. As her rowing career began, she realized it’s different than other sports she had previously played.
“It’s definitely unique,” she said. “It’s very addicting actually. There’s something about how graceful it is and yet how hard it is that it really keeps you coming back.”
She said unlike softball and swimming, rowing is a total team effort and everyone must be in sync at all times. While she has only been doing it for a short time, she doesn’t regret switching sports, she said.
In just her first full year on the water, Marissa and her squad won Gold at three spring meets and medaled in six of eight races, including qualifying for the semi-finals at the historic Stotesbury Cup Regatta. The Stotesbury Cup is the world's oldest, and largest, high school rowing competition with over 5,000 rowers from 180 U.S. High Schools/Clubs.
“It’s been an interesting ride,” Jennings said.
Jennings maintained a 3.9 G.P.A throughout high school, despite her hectic schedule. Since joining the rowing team, her days are long and filled with class, practice at Rutgers University, and training with her dad and personal trainer. She said going out socially isn’t much of an option.
Eventually, many schools began to look at her and Brown University, University of North Carolina, Clemson University and SMU all recruited her. She visited each college and spent time with the teams, but she felt the small campus and warm environment in Dallas was the best fit for her.
Jennings said she didn’t anticipate getting a scholarship, but she is extremely excited for school.
“I’m very proud of her,” Brian said.