By David Fong
TROY — Last week, Megan Hinkle kissed her mother goodbye at the airport gate, boarded a plane by herself for the first time and flew halfway across the country, where the self-admitted homebody will spend much of the next month.
“It’s exciting, but I’m also nervous,” Hinkle, a junior-to-be at Troy Christian High School, said the day before she left. “I’m really nervous … mostly about being away from home for that long. And I’ve never flown by myself before.”
Those are some of the sacrifices Hinkle is willing to make, however, to continue her dream of becoming one of the best rowers in the United States and, quite possibly, the world.
“Yeah, it’s worth it, because I’ll be working with some of the best coaches in the nation,” Hinkle said. “I’ll be working with college coaches and Olympic coaches, so that part is pretty exciting.”
Hinkle — who only began rowing two years ago upon learning most college rowing scholarships for females go unused — quickly is making a name for herself as one of the top junior rowers in the nation. In the spring, Hinkle took first place in the women’s youth category at the Midwest Indoor Rowing Championships at The Ohio State University.
Soon after capturing the Midwest title, Hinkle went to Chicago where she tried out for a spot at the prestigious United States Junior National Team Development and High Performance Camps. Hinkle was impressive enough to earn a spot at the camp, where she’ll now spent the next few weeks working with national coaches and top of the line equipment.
Hinkle’s opportunities at the camp are nearly limitless. She could be selected to compete in either the club nationals or in Mexico City within the next few weeks. She also could earn a spot on the U.S. national team.
“It’s pretty amazing how fast all of this is happening,” Hinkle said. “I can’t really believe it.”
In between earning a spot at the camp and leaving for camp, Hinkle also had the opportunity to compete at the U.S. Youth Rowing National Championships, both as a single rower and as a member of a quad. Hinkle and her three teammates placed fifth in the nation in the quad — despite having the 16th-fastest qualifying time — while Hinkle placed sixth in the nation in the single.
Should Hinkle continue to develop at her current pace, a full-ride to college is all but assured a full college scholarship said Greater Dayton Rowing Association youth coach Abby Beach.
“Usually, college rowing teams don’t find their team members until they are already on campus,” Beach said in a previous interview. “College recruiters can’t contact Megan yet because she’s only a sophomore, so they all have to go through me, but I can tell you we’ve already heard from Princeton, the University of Virginia, the University of Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Indiana — they all want her.”
While Hinkle certainly is interested in the possibility of rowing in college — it’s what got her into the sport in the first place — she also has a much larger goal down the road.
“My goal is to get to the Olympics,” she said. “That would be phenomenal.”
Of course, that would also mean leaving home again for an extended period of time — and would again be worth it.
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong