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Rower aims for national glory with elite training program

From+left%2C+Katrina+Pohlman+23+strokes+while+graduate+student+Taylor+Volmrich+bows+during+a+doubles+race.+Volmrich+is+entering+their+fifth+year+with+the+rowing+program.
Nolan Saunders
From left, Katrina Pohlman ’23 strokes while graduate student Taylor Volmrich bows during a doubles race. Volmrich is entering their fifth year with the rowing program.

As many of the athletes on the Ithaca College rowing team take to their boats in hopes of earning another Liberty League championship, one athlete in particular is dreaming of something bigger.

For the past two summers, graduate student Taylor Volmrich has been rowing with the Advanced Rowing Initiative of the Northeast (ARION) program in hopes of one day becoming a member of the United States Senior National Team. The ARION program is notorious for sending numerous rowing athletes to national teams and the Olympics — 10 of the 18 athletes currently rostered at ARION have competed at the national level.

Volmrich has the ultimate goal in mind of competing at the Olympics and being part of the U.S. National team. Volmrich said they are taking this journey step by step and not rushing themself.

“Certainly one day at a time,” Volmrich said. “One of the biggest pluses of being a collegiate athlete and having rowed somewhere like Ithaca is that the skills you develop are largely outside of rowing. I was a captain on the team last year, which just drives leadership skills way up and those are important in life as much as they are in rowing.”

ARION’s head coach Eric Catalano said the program is meant to help athletes get a step up from their collegiate skill set.

“It’s a U.S. rowing high-performance program,” Catalano said. “So it’s meant to help athletes get from their collegiate rowing careers and continue developing to a space where they can make a senior national team.”

The intensity of training for a Division III college program is far less substantial than the ARION program. Volmrich said the ARION program has far more hours to train than what an average student-athlete would have.

“With Division III rowing, we don’t have the hours to do two workouts a day,” Volmrich said. “If you do two workouts a day, it’s 100% on your own time except for when we lift. [With ARION], you’re probably doing four or five more hours a week of just cardio training.”

Catalano backed Volmrich up, explaining that rowing for ARION is some athletes’ entire profession.

“This is the full-time job of the athletes that are here full-time,” Catalano said. “Taylor was part of our summer development program, but along with that summer development program, we have athletes that are here year round and this is their full-time job. They are either on an Olympic team, or on a national team or on their way to it.”

Becky Robinson, head coach of the Bombers’ women’s rowing team, said she believes that the college’s rowing program also prepared Volmrich for the level of rowing that they are at.

“I would say Taylor has made a lot of progress,” Robinson said. “Taylor’s [ergometer] score has improved 50 seconds from when they came in. I expect people to improve 30 seconds and they exceeded that. … They have also really taken on a lot of extra training knowing that’s what’s needed at that level.”

Volmrich said they attribute much of their success to the coaches at the college, explaining that their technique improved a lot since stepping onto campus in 2019.

“Both Becky and [assistant coach] Beth [Greene] are really good for coaching technique,” Volmrich said. “It’s one of the things I think the two of them would say they’re the best at … so that’s definitely a big part of the game, which is having good coaches.”

Despite a perception that most high-tier rowers come from Division I schools, Catalano said the college has become a breeding ground for national team athletes.

“This is Taylor’s second summer with us,” Catalano said. “They definitely improved a lot and are a really strong athlete. Interestingly, you think most of the elite athletes come from these Division I schools, but we’re actually pretty happy to have a pretty nice connection with Ithaca. Savannah Brija is an Ithaca athlete, and Taylor and Karina Feitner were also Ithaca athletes. Savannah made the national team last year.

Catalano later explained that having three athletes from the college reflects Robinson and Greene’s ability to coach at such a high level.

“Counting Taylor, we actually have three Ithaca athletes on our team, which speaks a lot for the job that Becky and Beth do there to have these athletes who just love rowing so much,” Catalano said.

Volmrich has one more fall season with the Bombers as they are expected to graduate in December 2023. During the fall, the Bombers do a type of rowing which is referred to as sculling, mostly focused on small boats and single-person rowing. During the spring, they do sweep rowing which consists of eight people.

Robinson believes that Volmrich’s rowing will continue to get faster as they train with the ARION program.

“In the northeast, I think [ARION] is the place to be,” Robinson said. “I think that it’s the mileage that is going to make the biggest impact at this point, so I anticipate that we will see a much faster version of Taylor this fall than we did last year.”

Robinson said Volmrich’s decision to row for the college this spring will rely largely on their progress in competing nationally. However, Robinson explained that no matter what decision Volmrich goes with, the team is going to support them no matter what.

“That’s Taylor’s path to choose and we’re going to support them whichever way they go,” Robinson said.

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Flynn Hynes
Flynn Hynes, Assistant Sports Editor
Nolan Saunders, Photographer
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