Cameron Laukaitis rows through the Montlake Cut at the Head of the Lake in early November. Courtesy photo

Cameron Laukaitis rows through the Montlake Cut at the Head of the Lake in early November. Courtesy photo

Kirkland athletes are ready to row in college

Kelly, Laukaitis compete for Sammamish Rowing Association.

Allie Kelly and Cameron Laukaitis used to call the volleyball and basketball courts their home, but now they’re making an impact in the rowing realm.

The Kirkland residents along with several other Sammamish Rowing Association athletes recently signed their letters of intent to compete in college. Their schools of choice are University of Texas at Austin (Kelly), Lehigh University (Laukaitis), Oregon State University (Mary Kirchoff and Kathryn Clemens) and Southern Methodist University (Faith Epp).

It’s a family rowing affair for Kelly, whose dad competed at Stanford University and now her mom, sister and brother also participate in the sport. Allie, who attends The Overlake School in Redmond, played school and club volleyball for nine years before she sustained a concussion. She returned to the sport after healing, but no longer had the passion for volleyball, she said. And along came rowing.

“I’m able to push myself past my limit in everything,” said Allie, who’s become passionate about the sport in her 10 months on board. “Rowing is definitely more gritty. We’re out in the cold (running and rowing). It takes the challenge and drive from volleyball to a new level.”

Allie knew from the start that she would soon be bonding with the other girls in their quest for success. After the first two weeks, she was sore everywhere, she laughed, and she persevered to keep on track.

She’s ready to become part of the “sisterhood” on her college team, which took third place at the NCAA championships last season. It’s a program on the rise and she’d like to be a part of its future success, she said.

Juanita’s Laukaitis played basketball for seven years, but when she entered high school, she wanted to test the proverbial waters and try something new. Her dad was an SRA member and pointed her toward rowing.

“I had no idea how hard rowing was,” said Laukaitis, who evaluated her performance each week and decided to go full force into the sport. “You have the support system of the team. You know that everyone’s going through it, too, and that makes it more enjoyable.”

Laukaitis’s confidence level has risen through rowing, and like Kelly, she enjoys going that extra adrenaline-filled mile to achieve stellar results.

Most of her dad’s family is from back east and the rower is ready to tackle the Pennsylvania waters with her new school. During her visit to Lehigh, she envisioned personal connections on tap with her future teammates she met at the welcoming school.

* Juanita’s Jackson Warnick and Kelly are two of 11 SRA rowers chosen to compete in the US Rowing Regional Challenge in Sarasota, Florida, on Dec. 15.

Left to right: Cameron Laukaitis, Mary Kirchoff, Kathryn Clemens, Allie Kelly and Faith Epp. Courtesy photo

Left to right: Cameron Laukaitis, Mary Kirchoff, Kathryn Clemens, Allie Kelly and Faith Epp. Courtesy photo

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