I am Christina Pope Tomcany, a former Mathews High School Rower who graduated with the Class of 1998. Today I am a Title 1 Reading Teacher and a proud part of the Mathews High School Crew Coaching Staff.
I vividly remember the unconfident, overweight young girl who joined the crew team over 18 years ago. I knew from the moment that I walked into the Mathews High School gymnasium for the spring sports meeting that I would be on the same level as every other novice rower who was there with me that day and in a way it comforted me to know that. We were all inexperienced, young kids who knew crew was hard, and secretly even joining the team scared me to death. But what scared me to death even more was imagining telling my coach, Mr. Ulsaker, that I wanted to quit…so quitting never became an option and it’s still not an option in my life.
I started my rowing career at a definite disadvantage being slower, heavier, and more out of shape than most of my peers around me. While they were, at first, able to perform better than me at physical tasks, I focused on being the best that I could be that day and I did that every day. By my senior year the unconfident girl who started rowing a few years before was nowhere to be found. I was able to row in multiple boats both sculling and sweeping, I was not lagging behind my peers, and I and even won a gold medal at the Virginia Scholastic Rowing Championships. In that young girl’s place stood a head strong young woman who knew that she could accomplish any goal set forth in front of her.
Although I didn’t continue my rowing career in college, I never would have attended and graduated from Longwood College without the confidence I gained in myself through rowing. When I was faced with any obstacle at college I formed a plan. Rowing is all about plans…how are you going to approach your race? What is your start going to be at the beginning of a race? When should you take your power strokes? I learned that through proper planning I could handle anything that my college classes threw my way. I didn’t quit; I just stuck to the plan.
You see, I am the everyday person that rowing did more for than most people imagine. I am not a collegiate, or United States National Team rower. I am a teacher, and now a Mathews High School Crew Assistant Coach who tries to pass on what I learned from rowing to the kids I coach and the two future Mobjack rowers who I am raising. There is so much to learn in rowing about boat maintenance, the rowing cycle, mastering the rowing machine- better known as the erg. But what I really learned from crew- the responsibility to take care of my equipment, loyalty to my teammates, goal setting, and just plain hard work, became the cornerstones of my life and shaped me into what I am today. Rowing for Mathews High School gave me those intangible things that no person can take away from me…and I am a better person, mother, wife, and citizen because of it.
Christina Pope Tomcany
Mathews HS Assistant Rowing Coach