Schuylkill River to Cayuga Lake: Senior rowers reflect on journey

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When Andrew McLellan and Max Harmon joined Conestoga Crew as sophomores, they barely knew each others’ names, much less where the sport would take them. Now seniors, the two are Stotesbury Cup champions, nationally competitive, Cornell crew commits and  good friends.

Both boys initially joined crew to try something new. McLellan was recommended to join the program after moving into the district in his sophomore year, and Harmon, who had played lacrosse for most of his life, was inspired by a friend to switch to crew after breaking his thumb. The two were placed in the same boat due to their similar height and build and have rowed in the same quad ever since.

“We really can’t escape each other,” McLellan joked.

Although McLellan and Harmon have been rowing for three years, 2019 was especially successful for the two. Representing Conestoga, the two won gold medals at the Stotesbury Cup Regatta as well as the SRAA National Championship Regatta. They also placed third at the USRowing Youth National Championship and first at the Head of the Schuylkill Regatta racing for Tredyffrin/Easttown Sculling Development. Representing the Conshohocken Rowing Club over the summer, they placed first in the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta.

Thanks to their two years of training and competing together, McLellan and Harmon have become close friends, constantly motivating each other.

“When you spend so much time with the same people every day, it sort of becomes like a family dynamic. You get mad sometimes in races because you want to be as fast as possible, but you’re always friends. I know we’ve definitely yelled at each other, but we’re still good friends,” Harmon said.

Crew practices are often rigorous, involving hours of rowing daily, which can be frustrating.

“You go on the boat, and you want everything to feel right, but it doesn’t always go that way, and then you ask why things aren’t going like they did the other day, why aren’t you going as fast as you did before?” Harmon said.

 During these stressful moments, the two are thankful that they have each other and the rest of the team for support.

“There’s been lots of rough times, but having Max by me has made them a lot better. Your friends are always there to make you feel better on tough days or sometimes (to) make fun of you,” McLellan said.

With their impressive victories and accomplishments in both scholastic and club rowing, it’s no surprise that McLellan and Harmon have already committed to row in college. Both will row for Cornell University in the Class of 2024 and hope to continue their streak of competing together. However, the two have different plans for their futures concerning crew after college.

“My main goal when I get to college is to really help improve the team, and after that I’m definitely going to try out for the national team. I’d really like to make an impact,” McLellan said.

Harmon, while not as interested in crew beyond the collegiate level, is open to the possibility of continuing to row but views getting into Cornell as the start of a new chapter.

The most memorable crew moment “for me was getting into college, because that’s really one of the main reasons I did it. I was also considering going into the military, but when I started getting really good at (crew), it became a great thing for college too. Getting accepted was sort of like the end of my journey,” Harmon said.

Even with the exciting opportunities that lie ahead of them, McLellan and Harmon believe their memories of rowing together in high school will stick with them for many years to come.

“Over the summer at away competitions when you’re stuck in a hotel room with four other guys and you’re just messing around waiting for your race, it’s so funny,” Harmon said. “We’d end up watching weird late night shows on the History Channel and then race and give it our all the next day.”

The two will row their last seasons for Conestoga this year and look forward to competing in the coming months.