Wake up for next challenge
Rylie Wake’s decision to trade skates for oars has paid big dividends.
The 18-year-old St. Catharines native and Grade 12 student at Ridley College recently committed to the University of Massachusetts Amherst on a rowing scholarship beginning in the fall of 2021.
“I’m so excited. I started the recruiting process in the summer last year so I was definitely looking forward to this moment,” she said. “To see it actually happen and have it all settled, I’m very excited.”
Wake, who will major in biology, feels the school is a perfect fit, in and out of the classroom.
“The rowing program is amazing,” she said. “It’s definitely one of the big things I was drawn towards. What I learned through this process was the importance of finding a school you love academically as much as athletically. And I definitely loved the biology program at UMass.”
Wake admitted she was concerned about making a decision because she was unable to visit the schools in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I was really worried because the campus was something I was really looking forward to (seeing) at all the schools I was looking at,” she said. “It was definitely a big concern for me but when I narrowed down my choices, UMASS was stood out. They sent me videos, virtual tours and pictures. Near the end of it, it wasn’t an issue that I couldn’t tour. I fell in love with the school even in the on-line videos.”
The process, she said, was at times overwhelming.
“Starting the recruiting process, there were so many schools that reached out, it was definitely difficult navigating,” she recalled. “It was all new for me and my family. Over the course of a year, you really start to find things you like in each school and I kept notes on all my calls with the coaches.”
Wake grew up playing competitive hockey before giving rowing a whirl in Grade 9 at Denis Morris.
“I came from a competitive hockey background for most of my life so I was really into sports,” she said. “I wasn’t overly confident I would love rowing but I fell in love with it.”
Wake participated in both sports for two years at DM before concentrating exclusively on rowing when she moved to Ridley in Grade 11.
“The rowing program and academics are so strong (at Ridley) and it was all at one place for me. It’s the most organized school I’ve ever been involved with. I’m definitely glad I switched.”
Wake says she misses competitive hockey, but gets her fill skating with the junior varsity squad.
“It’s really fun. I’m still on the ice a little bit just to stay at it but rowing is my passion,” Wake said. “I love it and wouldn’t trade anything for it.
“I’m happy I stuck with it.”
Wake feels the rowing environment is a perfect fit for her personality.
“It’s so positive and there is so much support from teammates and even competition, even the other girls we row against are amazing,” she said. “The sportsmanship is so awesome and it’s such a positive environment.”
The demands put on a rower also appealed to Wake.
“I think that was another reason I was drawn to the sport. I follow a strict schedule and routine and I honestly enjoy working out anyway so it was something that was really easy to adapt to and one of the reasons I love rowing.”
Wake’s rowing resume at Ridley is impressive and includes a gold medal in the junior women’s four+ at the 2019 Canadian Secondary Schools Rowing Association Regatta and a championship in the junior women’s eight+ at the 2019 Row Ontario Championships. She also finished in the top five at the 2020 Ontario Indoor Championships and in the top 10 at the 2020 Canadian Indoor Championships.
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