Local student earns accolades for leadership in rowing

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By Alice Du Pont

Emily Massey is a small girl. She stands 5', 1" tall and weighs 95 pounds. But her size is perfect for her position in the sport of rowing. She's a coxswain. The medals she has won in the sport hang heavy around her slender neck and indicate that she is good at her job.

Massey, who graduated from Maclay School this year, has participated in rowing since the she was in sixth grade. In an area where football is king and basketball is queen, the sport of rowing attracts little attention.

"It's very big up north but a lot of people around here don't know too much about it," she said.

But that doesn't bother Massey or other members of the Capital City Rowing Team. They continue to practice twice a day, seven days a week, during the season on the Leon County side of Lake Talquin. Unlike some of their competitors that have long rivers on which to practice, Massey has to be careful that the shell doesn't get snagged on the underwater stumps in the lake.

In the spring of her seventh grade year, when she was coxswain for both male and female crews, she earned the Most Valuable Female Crew Award. In eighth grade she joined the Tallahassee Area Crew, which included most schools in Leon County, and was the only eighth grader on the team. In ninth grade she moved to the men's team where she stayed until graduation.

As a coxswain, she doesn't row. She sits at the stern of the shell in a very small spot and is basically the team's coach on the water. Her position on the team is vital. She calls out the rowing cadence, keeps the team's spirit up and always knows where the competitors are during a race. She is the team leader and must make decisions quickly that could result in a loss or a victory.

"During a race the rate at which the team rows is crucial. I'm kind of like a coach on water. There are eight guys that have to be motivated and I have to keep them focused," she said.

She has been around the sport since she was a small child. She learned from watching her brother.

"My older brother, T.J., had the position of coxswain through high school. We went to all of his events. When I was in sixth grade the coach encouraged me to come out for the Maclay team. When I was in eighth grade we became the Tallahassee Area Crew and in my junior year, 2008, we became the Capital City Rowing team so that we would be able to enter more competitions," she said.

The merger worked. Last week, team placed sixth in the grand national. The team also placed 10th of 66 entries in the Head of Charles event in Boston, the largest rowing event in the world. They placed first of 44 entries in the Men's Varsity 8 at Head of the Hoche in Chattanooga, Tenn.

In two weeks, Massey will be headed to Clemson University where she has a partial scholarship as a coxswain. She will pursue a degree in broadcast journalism but she has no plans to compete on the olympic level.

"You have to do that full-time because you have to be able to practice. I know some people who have menial jobs that they can leave when they have to, but that will mean I couldn't start my professional life until I am 28 or 30. I don't want to do that. I'm ready to go away to college," she said.