By Kevin Stone, Contributing Writer
SHREWSBURY – Shrewsbury High School alumnus Collin Hay (2018) earned entry to the U23 World Rowing Championships on June 15 and is now representing both Shrewsbury and his country in the championships in Racice, Czech Republic, from July 7-11.
Hay and his pair partner competed against three other crews at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota, Florida, winning with the time of 6:50.51 on the 2000m course.
It’s not often you hear about such success at the local level in this particular sport, so how did Hay get started?
“I started rowing in the fall of 2014 with the Shrewsbury High School crew team,” he recently explained via email. “Simply put, I started because I thought I’d get bored in the fall and a neighbor at the time happened to be a former captain of the team.”
Hay trains at the Quinsigamond Rowing Club. As he has worked, Hay has been on a mission to represent his country for quite a while now.
“I think the quest really began when I finished my first season of rowing,” he said. “I knew that’s all I wanted to do and I knew I wanted to be good at it. “It started off as daydreaming, where I’d picture myself winning crazy international races I knew I’d never have a shot in.”
“It was a slow evolution from a dream to an actual goal as I found myself training more, getting more race experience, getting fitter, and rowing better,” he continued. “Things really clicked after I hopped into some smaller boats during college.”
“I started to realize they were moving pretty fast and we were definitely exceeding expectations,” Hay said. “That’s when I first decided I’d give the national team trials a swing.”
Of course, the dream started in Shrewsbury, so does Hay still use any lessons he learned while wearing the blue and gold?
“You can always choose your frame of reference,” he said. “We typically raced local teams and created this bubble of standards that didn’t necessarily apply everywhere else.”
“There’s sayings like ‘big fish in a little pond’ or ‘small fish in a big pond’ and, in my experience, it’s always better to make yourself the small fish in the big pond, even if you can’t be in the big pond physically,” Hay explained. “If I found myself doing well locally, it was time to start thinking how I stacked up nationwide.”
“Even now, I find myself comparing my fitness and form to some of the greatest of all time,” he continued. “And even though there’s some serious disparity in skill and speed from myself and the greats, it breaks barriers of what I think ‘is’ and ‘isn’t’ possible.”
With the Olympics set to begin soon, it’s hard not to wonder if Hay will one day be rowing at that level. The thought has crossed his mind.
“I hope to do my community proud,” he said. “I feel an enormous amount of support from home and couldn’t do this without all the generosity from others. For that, I feel the need to show their kindness has made a difference and has allowed me to pursue this dream.”
“As for the Olympics, it’s definitely on my radar,” he explained. “Due to the participant volume constraints of the Olympics, not every boat is an Olympic class boat, so I’d likely switch to the Olympic-class lightweight men’s double sculls after this year’s world championships.”
Hay has also been using a GoFundMe to pay for the trip to the Czech; learn more at: gofundme.com/f/u23-worlds-light-pair-fund.