Next week, Paula Welly will be in Cincinnati, Ohio, competing in the USRowing Youth National Championships. A few days later, she’ll graduate from Everett High School.
She’s used to juggling school and crew. In this year of visiting colleges and making big decisions, the 18-year-old has spent most every weekday afternoon at practice with the Everett Rowing Association.
No matter the weather, she helps row an eight-person shell up the Snohomish River, from Langus Park to Lowell. During the winter, after-school practice means indoor conditioning.
A rower with the Everett club since eighth grade, Welly this year had to squeeze an added requirement into an already packed schedule. Along with classes, rowing and college applications, she had to complete a senior project.
Called a culminating exhibition by the Everett School District, the project is required for graduation. It includes a thick notebook filled with proof of work done, an essay and a student’s personal letter about the project, and an oral presentation before a panel.
Welly pushed herself far above and beyond the requirements. Her project is lasting. She created a book, “The Legacy: The History of Everett Rowing Association,” chronicling the local history of a sport she loves.
“She got an A, great job,” said Bruce Overstreet, Welly’s teacher in a one-semester senior project class at Everett High School.
Overstreet at first thought Welly’s idea was too ambitious. Now, he sees her book as exemplifying the idea behind senior projects. “The original concept was to find your niche and really pursue it,” he said. For other senior projects, he’s seen students run a marathon, record a music CD, and job-shadow with a campus police officer.
“It’s an opportunity to test the waters of the real world,” Overstreet said.
Testing the waters is an understatement. Welly used water, muscle and hard work to earn big scholarship offers. She turned down full-ride rowing scholarships to Clemson University in South Carolina, and to Syracuse University in New York. With a partial scholarship, she’ll row for Gonzaga University in Spokane next year.
Her passion for rowing was sparked by her older brother’s involvement in the sport. Michael Welly, two years older than Paula, went from the Everett Rowing Association to the University of Washington, where he was a coxswain on the crew team. She also started as a coxswain, but grew too large for that position of steering and calling out rowing rhythms from the back of a boat.
For the book, which she created using an online publishing program, Welly’s mentor was Matthew Lacey. A former coach and head of the Everett Rowing Association, Lacey is now director of the Pocock Rowing Center in Seattle. Many of Lacey’s photographs, along with those from the UW and others involved in Everett’s rowing community, appear in the book.
“It was a unique idea, to pull together the history,” said Lacey, 34, who rowed for the UW in the 1990s. As Welly’s mentor, Lacey said he helped her find people and pictures, and “helped focus her enthusiasm.”
“I basically ended up working for Paula Welly. She had a very good plan,” said Lacey, adding that Everett is “steeped in rowing.”
Now affiliated with the Everett Parks Department, the Everett Rowing Association was founded in 1982 by a group led by Martin Beyer and Lynn Dykgraaf. In the early days, the club used Everett’s 10th Street boat launch area. The club’s boathouse was dedicated in 1991 at Langus Park, along the Snohomish River.
One of the giants of Everett rowing is the late Dick Erickson, for two decades the Husky crew coach. Irma Erickson, Dick Erickson’s widow, is among the many people Welly interviewed. Her book tells the history of the boats, each named for a person with a local link to the sport.
One of the newest racing boats is the Lon &Linda Welly, named in honor of the years of service and financial support Paula’s parents have given to the club.
Lacey did his best to explain the sport’s appeal. “It’s getting out on the water, a couple inches above the water, and being able to interact with the environment,” he said. “It’s using every muscle in your body in perfect timing with everybody else, and creating something everybody enjoys — speed.”
He makes it sound so easy. None of it is easy, not the rowing, not the schoolwork.
“This kid really has a tremendous work ethic,” Lacey said. “It’s a beautiful thing.”
Columnist Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460 or firstname.lastname@example.org.