Duncomb competes overseas in World Rowing final

Junior Annalie Duncomb (left) and Annelise Hahl (right) row as they compete in the World Rowing Beach Sprint Finals.

Aimee Liu | The Chronicle

A Mason High School (MHS) junior rowed her way to a bronze medal in the United Kingdom.

MHS junior Annalie Duncomb competed in the World Rowing Beach Sprint Finals in Saundersfoot, Great Britain, a small village in Pembrokeshire, Wales. In the event that ran from October 14 to October 16, 2022, Duncomb teamed up with her partner from North Carolina, Annelise Hahl, in the Junior Women’s Double Sculls against international teams from Spain, Germany, Great Britain, France, Japan, and Canada.

A double scull in competitive rowing is designed for two persons who propel the boat with oars, one in each hand. Duncomb and Hahl advanced in the competition by winning in their time trials and then moved through the quarterfinals and semifinals on their way to a bronze medal for Team USA. 

Duncomb said that although the competition was “definitely very chaotic,” and that the waves were rough that day, the overall atmosphere was still “so awesome.”

“It’s so high energy and there’s nothing like it,” Duncomb said. “It’s just so exciting to watch all the races and be there for your team and scream as loud as Team USA screams.”

Duncomb began the process of trying out for Team USA in August 2022, where she competed at the trials for coastal rowing in Lido Beach, Florida. She said that trials were open to anyone in the US and that the winners among the American athletes would be selected to represent their respective event at the world championships.

“The experiences I’ve had with Team USA are some of the best in my life,” Duncomb said. “It’s so exciting to have the opportunity to represent my country and get to wear a Team USA uniform with my last name on it.”

When her partner crossed the finish line in Saundersfoot, Duncomb said that it was one of the happiest moments of her life, as she had not expected to go so far at such a high-level competition. She said that receiving her first world championship medal was an incredibly rewarding moment.

“We had never expected to come that far when we were on the plane,” Duncomb said. “We just wanted to give it our best shot, but to have a medal that we earned for the United States from a world event is so exciting.”

Duncomb, who began rowing in the eighth grade, said she normally competes in flatwater rowing but her coach encouraged her to consider coastal rowing on ocean water. Duncomb said that agility is important for coastal rowing, which is a “rougher, more chaotic” sport.

In coastal rowing, there are long-distance events and beach sprints, where rowers must sprint to their boats just offshore, navigate a buoy course in open water, and return to finish on the beach.

Duncomb said that after trying coastal rowing initially for fun, she has since found the sport to be very enjoyable and likes competing in the waves of the ocean.

“I love the juxtaposition between the serenity of your surroundings and the sheer grit that the sport requires,” Duncomb said. “It’s the most intense sport I’ve ever done, but also the most beautiful.”

Duncomb practices up to six times a week and hopes to pursue rowing in college. She has dreams of one day competing in the Olympics which means dedicating herself to a training regiment that requires intense training and balancing rowing with other aspects of her life.

“It’s really difficult to balance because with rowing there’s no time for anything else,” Duncomb said. “For now I’m just hoping to continue pursuing it because I genuinely love the sport.”

According to Duncomb, the physical demands are actually more simple to manage than the mental ones. She said that “it’s easy to feel exhausted, but the second I take that first step, no matter how sore my muscles are or how blistered my hands get, it all disappears.”

To combat the emotional demands of rowing, Duncomb said she has explored methods that help her to get out of her own head. She said she tries to energize and affirm herself by listening to positive music, dancing, and counting strokes to keep her mind from wandering.

“The thing about the race that makes or breaks you is your mindset and how you approach the obstacles,” Duncomb said. “Because rowing is a repetitive motion, it’s very much a mental sport. The way that you think about your race is a big factor in how your results will be.”

Duncomb said that “having a more positive attitude toward races” and trying not to overthink potential worst-case scenarios is something she is working on and has helped her compete. 

Duncomb said she has faced many pressures to succeed, whether from her parents, coach, or herself. She said that she is grateful for the pressure because it has pushed her to be better, but it has also occasionally had harmful effects on her mindset.

“I’m so afraid of letting other people and myself down, but I try to remember that I row because it makes me happy,” Duncomb said. “I’ve noticed that as I improve my mindset and mental health, my results have gotten a lot better.”

Although the sport of rowing has required her to stretch her capabilities – both physically and mentally – Duncomb said it has also ultimately helped her gain confidence and become a more determined person.

“Rowing has definitely given me a new perspective as to what perseverance really means,” Duncomb said. “I understand the meaning of grit and hard work, and I’ve been able to improve my mental health in ways that I wouldn’t have expected. It’s pushed my limits but also changed my perception of what I’m capable of.”

Photo by Lisa Worthy of AWORTHYPHOTO