Newcastle teen races in Head of the Charles Regatta
December 6, 2012
By Christina Corrales-Toy
It may be hard to believe that the mere sight of a waterway can bring tears to a person’s eyes.
But for a rower, it is nearly impossible to remain emotionless when standing at the foot of the iconic Charles River in Massachusetts, and it wasn’t any different for Newcastle teen Justyn Jacobs, who competed on the river in late October.
“They always say that when you see the Charles, you are going to cry because the river, the bridges, the Boston skyline behind it, is just breathtaking,” she said. “I couldn’t even have dreamed of something like that.”
The Charles River plays host to the marquee competition in the rowing community, the Head of the Charles Regatta. College teams, Olympians and top junior rowers, like Justyn, gather at the river yearly to compete in the sport’s pinnacle event.
Only the best in the sport ever make it to the Charles. So, it is a huge accomplishment for Justyn, who has only been rowing for a little more than two years, to compete in the event as a high school senior.
“Nobody gets to the Charles without working their butts off,” she said. “So, to be a part of that, it’s just so amazing.”
Justyn is at the top of her game. She had the opportunity to compete in her sport’s premier event and in just two years she’s become a highly recruited athlete, with college teams across the country clamoring for her services.
But even just a few years ago, she could have never imagined the whirlwind of success that has brought her where she is today.
‘Something that was hers’
Justyn, the youngest of three children, was used to standing on the sidelines.
She cheered from the stands as her older brother picked up state titles with the Bellevue High School football team. She clapped from her seat in the auditorium as her older sister performed in a dance recital. She played sports, but struggled to find one that suited her.
“You know, this is the little girl that didn’t make the basketball squad and tried out for the cheerleading team and tried out for the drill team and just never kind of found her thing,” Janine Jacobs, Justyn’s mother, said.
She had never quite found a talent that truly belonged to her, that is, until she took up rowing the summer before her sophomore year of high school.
Justyn’s smile beams when she reminisces about the first time she tried rowing. On a whim, a high school friend encouraged her to try the sport and, despite the unruly 6 a.m. practice wakeup call, she decided to go through with it.
Janine will never forget the smile on her daughter’s face when she returned home after a rain-soaked practice. Right then, she knew that her daughter had found her passion.
“It was gross and muddy, but the only thing that you could see was her beautiful smile in that face full of dirt and mud, and she was just happy,” Janine said. “She was always her siblings’ biggest cheerleader and it was just nice for me to see this little girl who all of the sudden had something that was hers.”
Finding a ‘home’
Justyn found a home with the Sammamish Rowing Association and, behind the encouragement of her coach Courtney Moeller, worked harder than she ever had to get on the team of eight rowers that would compete at the Charles.
“My coach is just an amazing person,” Justyn said. “She bestows in every rower a new sense of confidence, and I know I couldn’t have accomplished everything without her.”
While the team didn’t place as high as they would have liked at the event, Justyn said it was still just an honor to be able to experience it.
“It’s a legacy to be able to race at the Charles,” Justyn said. “So, to be there and to be a part of that legacy and say, ‘In 2012, I went to the Head of the Charles,’ it’s just so amazing.”
Justyn’s parents have never missed one her races, and Janine said she loves supporting and cheering on her daughter at the competitions.
Justyn will take her talents to Oregon State University, where she will row for the Beavers next year.
“It’s a great sport. I think everyone should try it,” Justyn said. “I think it’s a home for a lot of people who have never really found a sport.”