O’Connor rows way to Wisconsin

Lauren O’Connor signs her commitment to the University of Wisconsin, surrounded by (L-R) her mother Kim O’Connor, English teacher Paul Mason and father Bob O’Connor. ((Photo submitted)

WESTFIELD – On Wednesday morning Nov. 14 at 7:30 a.m., Westfield High School senior Lauren O’Connor signed a commitment to attend the University of Wisconsin in Madison to join their Division I rowing team. In exchange, O’Connor received a full four-year scholarship plus stipends.
O’Connor, who grew up in Westfield, said she was flown out in September to the University of Wisconsin in Madison, spent the weekend and loved it. She said they have a very competitive team, and are in the top 15 for rowing.

O’Connor also said it is among her goals to make the World team in the summer, noting that Wisconsin has a really good record for Olympians.
“I’m definitely shooting for the highest I can go,” O’Connor said.
“She’s one of their top recruits. They really wanted her – they hounded her,” said Lauren’s mother Kim O’Connor, who was present at the signing on Wednesday along with her husband Bob O’Connor. “It’s awesome to be wanted that much.”
When asked how she got into rowing, which is not a sport offered in Westfield, Lauren O’Connor said simply that she used to ski (earning states as a freshman at WHS), when a friend recommended she try rowing. O’Connor said because she’s tall, 6 feet, her friend thought rowing might be a good fit for her.
O’Connor started rowing in her freshman year, first in Northampton and then for the Pioneer Valley Riverfront Club in Springfield, a small, non-profit club. She is now rowing on a team of eight all four seasons.
According to Kim O’Connor, in the fall, the team competes in the Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston; during the winter, they do indoor training in rowing tanks and indoor exercises. Spring was a big season, when Lauren competed on a team of four in Worcester that just missed the nationals in California by one point. In the summer, she competed with a different team of four, Community Rowing from Boston in the prestigious Royal Canadian Henley Regatta and won second place.
Her mother said she used to be able to easily pick out her daughter at school events, because of her height. At Regattas, she can’t. “They’re all tall,” she said.
”She found her niche, her people,” Kim O’Connor said. “It’s something she fell in love with. If you didn’t love it, you wouldn’t put all that time and effort into it.”
When asked if anyone in the family had rowing experience, Kim O’Connor said no. Also present at the signing on Wednesday was Lauren’s English teacher Paul Mason, a special teacher to Lauren, who was a rower in college.

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