Coming from Maine, Tess Wiggins and Katie Paige knew little about the sport of rowing when they went to college at William Smith College in Geneva, N.Y. Wiggins came from Cape Elizabeth, where she played basketball. Paige, from Brunswick, attended North Yarmouth Academy, where she played field hockey and lacrosse while also swimming.

Now, they are pivotal rowers on the nation’s third-ranked NCAA Division III program. Wiggins, a senior, sits in the No. 3 seat on the Herons’ varsity eight crew; Paige, a sophomore, sits in the No. 4 seat.

“Those seats are in what we call the engine room of the boat,” said Sandra Chu, in her 10th season as coach of the Herons. “Those seats contribute to the power of the boat.”

Paige likes that spot. “It’s definitely a cool feeling when you’re in the middle of the race and you look around,” said Paige. “I sometimes peek and see the boats behind us and it’s cool knowing that I’m a factor in how fast the boat is going.”

Chu said the two are about as different as can be, personality-wise (Wiggins the quiet leader, Paige the vocal one, always asking questions or pumping up the team), but together form a powerful tandem on the team.

“At the core of it is that they are simply dedicated to the excellence that they know is inside them,” said Chu.

Like many rowers, Wiggins and Paige walked on to the Herons’ program. Wiggins was running on the track when Chu’s husband suggested she try out for rowing. “I ended up falling in love with it,” said Wiggins. “It helped me find a family on campus.”

She was also looking to fill a void. Wiggins, a first-team All-America selection as a junior, was an accomplished violinist in high school but decided to give that up in college. “I was looking for something after taking a break from the violin,” said Wiggins. “(Rowing) takes the same level of commitment. You have to have a passion for it.”

Paige was looking for an outdoor activity to keep her moving. She saw a poster about a walk-on meeting for rowing that said, “Want to go to nationals? Join the rowing team.” She, too, was instantly hooked.

“I love the sport, I love the people I’m doing it with,” said Paige. “You make such a commitment to the sport if you don’t love it, it’s not worth it.”

Chu said it’s not surprising that two walk-ons have become such integral members of the team.

“Eighty percent of most college programs come from walk-ons,” said Chu, a walk-on herself when she attended Princeton. “Rowing, and a sport like wrestling, you can have someone walk on and become an Olympian. There aren’t many other sports that can say that.”

William Smith last weekend won the New York State championships, beating a field that included Division I Marist and three other nationally ranked Division III schools. The Herons dominated the Liberty League, winning Boat of the Week honors nine times.

This weekend, they will compete in the ECAC National Invitation, a 14-school meet in Worcester, Mass., with an invite to the national championships on the line.

While Paige said there’s always pressure to finish in the top three, she added, “For us, we’re just looking to do as well as we can.”

So far that’s been pretty good. Chu said this is the fastest varsity eight boat she’s had in her time as head coach. And the two Mainers have a lot to do with that.

Of Wiggins, Chu said, “The growth I’ve seen in her over four years is fantastic. She’s open, empathetic and relentlessly competitive, in a good way. Some students graduate and you worry about what’s ahead for them. Not Tess.”

Of Paige, Chu said, “We are so lucky to have her. She is on top of things. She’s the person who makes things happen, both for herself and her teammates.”

And, in rowing, that’s important. “There’s a uniqueness about rowing,” said Wiggins, who already has a job lined up after graduation — working for the U.S. Green Building Council in Washington, D.C. “You can’t talk during the race, so you have to be connected to your teammates in other ways. You have to have a lot of trust.”

Paige has another two years for the Herons. And while she admits she still has a lot to learn, she’s looking forward to the lessons ahead.

“I was just looking for something to get me outside every day,” she said. “And everything just fell into place.”

BASEBALL

New England College senior outfielder Chris Biskup of South Portland was honored with a North East Atlantic Conference second-team selection. Biskup started 33 games for the Pilgrims (21-17), hitting .337 with a team-high 25 runs scored. He had six doubles, 12 RBI and six stolen bases.

LACROSSE

Freshman attack Kate Boyer of Standish (Bonny Eagle) of Saint Michael’s College in Colchester, Vt., was recently named the Northeast-10 Conference Rookie of the Week after she had seven goals in three games. She finished the season second on the team in goals (17) and third in points (19). She also had eight draw controls and seven caused turnovers for the Purple Knights (4-12).

Senior midfielder Ashley Allen of South Portland (Waynflete) scored nine goals and two assists for the Hamilton College women’s team (7-9). Junior midfielder Mariah Monks of Cape Elizabeth (Waynflete) had 11 goals.

Sophomore midfielder Chris Kipp of Scarborough finished as the third-leading scorer for the Wentworth Institute of Technology men’s team. Kipp scored 12 goals and seven assists while collecting 14 ground balls. Junior midfielder Greg Ordway of Freeport appeared in seven games for the Leopards with three goals and one assist.

TRACK AND FIELD

Brandeis University women’s team finished seventh in the recent University Athletic Association championships, with sophomore Amelia Lundkvist of South Portland (Cheverus) and senior Lily Parenteau of Scarborough among the Judges’ scorers. Lundkvist finished seventh in the 1,500-meter run with a time of 4:47.11 while Parenteau was eighth in the high jump at 5 feet, 2 1/4 inches.

Bates senior Taylor Piers of Falmouth set the school record in the long jump (17 feet, 7 inches) while finishing fourth in the recent New England Small College Athletic Conference championships. She also finished eighth in the triple jump. She finished 12th in both events in last weekend’s New England Division III championships.

Freshman Colby Gail of Topsham (Mt. Ararat) finished third in the high jump in the NESCAC championships and 10th in the New Englands.

Bates junior Anthony Haeuser of South Portland was fifth in the 110 high hurdles (15.32 seconds) in the New England Division III meet. Also, junior James LePage of Cumberland (Greely) was sixth in the 800 (1:52.72) and junior David Hardison of South Portland finished fourth in the decathlon with a career-best 5,880 points.

Bentley University junior Craig Robinson of Scarborough won the 3,000 steeplechase in the recent MIT Invitational with a time of 9:42.21.

 

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: [email protected]

Twitter: MikeLowePPH