It’s nice to have options, especially at an early age.
Seventeen-year-old Ella Woodcock, a senior at Notre Dame in Welland, was courted by a number of American universities for two sports: hockey and rowing.
In the end, the serene waters of the Charles River in Boston won out over frozen collegiate rinks south of the border. Ella, the daughter of Ron and Tina Woodcock, in Fonthill, will be attending Northeastern University on a full-ride athletic scholarship, commencing in September of 2023.
Ivy-league Cornell, the University of Central Florida, and the University of California at Los Angeles were also on Woodcock’s radar for rowing, but a visit to Beantown convinced her that Northeastern should be her destination.
“I’m pretty happy with my decision,” she said. “I love Boston, and every year Northeastern is moving up in the [collegiate rowing] rankings. I had been to Boston before for a hockey tournament, but my [rowing recruitment] campus visit sold me on the school.”
At almost six feet tall, Woodcock’s best ergometer performance over two kilometres is an impressive 7:14, which attracted the attention of Joe Wilhelm, who hails from St. Catharines and has been the head rowing coach at Northeastern for almost 25 years.
Northeastern competes in the Colonial Athletic Association, against rowing rivals Delaware, Drexel (PA), Eastern Michigan, University of California-San Diego, University of Connecticut, and Villanova (PA).
In June of 2022, Woodcock won gold and bronze medals in the quad sculls at the Canadian Secondary Schools Rowing Association (CSSRA) championships on the Henley Course in St. Catharines, and followed that up with successful competitions in the fall season of longer “head” races at several regattas, including the Head of the Schuylkill Regatta in Philadelphia, and the Head of the Charles in Boston.
Though proficient in sculling (rowing with two blades) in double and quad shells, Woodcock especially enjoys “sweep” rowing in an eight, in which each athlete has one oar.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” she said. “I love the power and speed you get in the big boats.”
Hockey had been Woodcock’s primary athletic focus growing up, and she upped her game to a level where she competed in European tournaments in Italy and France in 2019, and now plays on the Brock Junior Badgers Midget AA hockey team. She discovered rowing prior to Grade 9 at Notre Dame, and considered it mainly cross-training in preparation for hockey.
“I think that I have developed strong time-management skills out of necessity during my high school years, having had to often juggle both rowing and hockey practices and competitions,” said Woodcock.
Don’t think that the demands of collegiate rowing have made Woodcock, who maintains a 4.0 grade point average at Notre Dame, shy away from a rigorous academic program.
“I’m hoping to major in mechanical engineering, and possibly branch out into aerospace,” she said. “A bunch of the young women rowing at Northeastern are in engineering. One girl on the team was actually at Northeastern’s campus in California for a while, working on a Mars rover for use by NASA.”
Woodcock expects to be the only Canadian in a Northeastern women’s crew next September. She has high aspirations for her future in rowing, maintaining a family tradition: one of her cousins preceded her on an NCAA Division I rowing scholarship at Northeastern, and three other cousins attended Texas, Virginia, and Washington for crew.
“I hope to get a shot at the Junior National Team [JNT] trials, depending on how my RADAR goes,” she said.
RADAR, or Rowing Athlete Development And Ranking, is a Rowing Canada program established to identify and monitor athletes.
“The Under 19 Championships are in Paris, France in 2023. If I don’t make the Under 19 team, I’m hoping to be selected for the Can-Am-Mex international regatta.”