In the first three years of the program, the Halifax Rowing Association junior team expected to finish last in all events — minutes behind all the other competitors. But with the addition of coach Victoria Ciccone back in August, the program has become a top contender in the state.
“When Coach Ciccone came, we actually started believing we could win, and not just show up,” said Julia Maxwell, one of the middle school girls who won a silver medal at the state championships. “She’s training us to win, but before her it was totally different.”
Ciccone, 23, began competitive rowing in high school in New Jersey, before earning a rowing scholarship to Nova Southeastern University. There, she won the NCAA Division II National Championship, multiple national championship top awards, the Sunshine State Conference championship, was a Sunshine State Conference All Conference Team member, and won the NSU’s Coach’s Award.
Now, she’s pushing her kids to their full potential to acquire some of the success she’s experienced.
“If I didn’t row or go to college, I wouldn’t be here to push these kids today,” Ciccone said. “That’s why I put them through serious training, and everybody has trained really hard all year.”
Halifax Rowing has a masters (adult 21 and over) and a junior crew. The junior crew, which ranges from 12 to 18 years old, has never been competitive until now, and Ciccone is looking to grow the program even further.
“We’ve had gold and silver medalists in district championships,” Ciccone said. “We have 18 kids on the junior team, including eighth-graders, which turned out to be a great thing. Everyone here is responsive to the coaching and respectful toward each other, and building the team with more people is going to push the kids that are already on the team. So, when the new kids get here, they will work even harder, when they see the kids’ medals.”
Julia Van Cleef, an eighth-grader, made the decision to quit soccer, the game she had played since she was 4 years old, to row last summer.
“Some of my friends had done rowing, and I was getting a little tired of soccer,” Van Cleef said. “When I tried it, I fell in love with it. ... It’s a lot about pushing yourself to the best of what you can do instead of just being physical.” She and the Freshman 4+ finished ninth in the state.
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TOP STATE FINISHERS
Halifax Rowing competed in the Florida Scholastic Rowing Association State Championships last month. Julia Maxwell and Paige Jagger, both eighth-graders at Grace Academy, won the varsity silver medal in the Girls Varsity-2. In the Boys Varsity-2, Connor Brok and Bret Bay earned a trip to the Grand Final and finished seventh overall. This was the first time HRA Juniors have medaled in the sweep state championships and earned a place in the Grand Finals.
The freshmen boys group, Alex Grubel, Ben Herstein, Dylan Lev, Andrew Filosa and Vince Leffler (coxswain), took 12th place, and girls Junior-Allison Thomas, Celeste Sebastien, Jasleen Kaylon, Julia Van Cleef and Lilly Copeland (coxswain) got 15th in the Petite Finals.