Rowing team

Silver and Bronze for Maggie Fellows ’13

Beth Spadaccini ’11

In August, St. Lawrence University women’s rowing alumna Maggie Fellows ’13 made her USRowing National Team debut and helped the team claim two medals at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru —the only two medals for Team USA at the Games. 

Fellows and teammate Julie Lonchar won silver in the women’s double sculls, and the team of Fellows, Lonchar, Keara Twist, and Solveig Imsdahl also earned a bronze medal in the women’s quadruple sculls on the last day of racing at the international competition. 

“It was pretty exciting,” says Fellows, who has been training to compete internationally since graduating from St. Lawrence.  “Just to get any kind of medal at the international level is an accomplishment. Our goal was to win, obviously, but we didn’t have expectations about how the results were going to play out. We were just very focused on the process.” 

In addition to the obvious obstacles athletes face training and preparing for competition at this level, Fellows and Team USA, as well as the other delegations competing in Lima, were hit with something unexpected: a norovirus outbreak. The norovirus is a highly contagious gastrointestinal virus that takes a physical toll and puts athletes at risk of dehydration.

“Almost half of our team came down with it, as well as a significant amount of team members from Canada, Brazil, and Chile,” she explains. “All the countries were affected to some extent, but I think it hit our team particularly hard, especially on the men’s side, and they really struggled with that. I was lucky enough to stay healthy, as was my doubles partner and one of the other girls in our quad, but the third member of our quad got the virus the day before our final.”

That meant Fellows, Lonchar, Twist, and Imsdahl had just one row together before winning bronze in the quad sculls. 

“When we changed the lineup, it was just kind of like, ‘Well, whatever happens, happens. We’ll just give it our best here. Here we go,’” Fellows explains. “So that was really fun. It was a fun race.”

After a rough first 500, which put Fellows and her teammates near the back of the field, they started to find a rhythm and, with a little extra motivation, made moves that would put them on the podium.

“We were in fifth place and then, in the third 500, our three seat, which was the girl who was filling in, said ‘Let’s make a move for Sydney,’ the girl who got sick. And suddenly,” according to Fellows, “our boat just took off, and we moved into third place. We were able to hold that margin until the finish line, so it was kind of like Sydney was in our boat. It was pretty special that we were able to work together on such short notice like that.”

Now that the Pan Games are behind her, Fellows, who trains in Long Beach, California, with the SoCal Scullers, has her sights set on making the U.S. Olympic team, although which boat class she’s going to target for Tokyo 2020 is still up in the air. 

“In order for the U.S. to send boats in each boat class, the crews that are at the World Championships this year have to qualify their boat for the U.S.,” she explains. “But in terms of my goals, it’s just to focus back in on training and get as fast as I can in the next few months to have the best shot possible of making that Olympic team.”