Tom Mortimer, who joined the Leander junior programme as part of the Club’s outreach programme to local state schools, and went to Henley College, spends a year at Kent School in the USA.
I learnt to row at Leander on the junior programme while studying at Henley College, and represented the Club in 2014, 2015, and 2016 in the Fawley Challenge Cup.
My ambition was to go to university in America, but I wanted to take a year out after finishing my ‘A’ levels to improve my rowing and my academic studies.
Kent School in Connecticut has strong ties with the Club, there is a room in the Club named after the school and the connection between them dates back to 1927 when Kent became the first school crew to race at Henley Royal Regatta. The opportunity arose to spend a year at Kent, which would enable me to develop my sweep rowing and further my academic studies. Despite a great time at Leander, this was an unbelievable opening that I could not miss and so last September I started a year at Kent.
My new coach, Eric Houston and his wife Barb were extremely welcoming and took me under their wing. The guys already rowing in the KSBC programme also helped me to settle in and thus began the training for this year’s season. During the year, we managed to break a 45 year-old boathouse course record and ended up going undefeated at the New England Championships earning us a trip to Henley for the regatta.
I was accustomed to balancing a rigorous training programme alongside my studies, having trained at Leander while attending Henley College, but the Kent environment provided a wonderful balance between the two and undoubtedly helped me get a place at Columbia University where I start this August.
I am forever grateful for the experience and to the people who helped me during the year: Headmaster Schell for his advice and guidance, Barret and Kim Naylor for their support during the school breaks and of course Eric and Barb Houston who made me feel so at home.
Please note - This article first appeared in the Leander Club newsletter ‘Leander News’ -Autumn 2017 issue ‘Countdown to the Bicentenary 1818 – 2018’. The Henley College is grateful for permission to reproduce it.