Maine provides a natural environment for rowing, its long coastline and picturesque lakes generating opportunity and motivation.
But the sport of competitive rowing is confined to a few small-college programs and an occasional private school entry.
That makes Anna Goodale’ s ascension to the status of world champion and a berth on the 2008 U.S. Olympic women’ s 8 team all the more impressive, given that it’ s a relatively new undertaking for the 25-year-old from Camden.
“Growing up in midcoast Maine I’ ve always had a love for the ocean,” Goodale said recently. “To find a sport on the water was a perfect fit.”
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Goodale is one of three Mainers who will compete in rowing events at the Summer Games in Beijing. Elle Logan of Boothbay Harbor will sit next to Goodale on the women’ s 8 boat that will begin preliminary-round heats on Aug. 10, while Wyatt Allen of Portland will attempt to win his second straight gold medal in the men’ s 8, with heats in that race also beginning Aug. 10.
Goodale did not play organized sports until her days at Camden Hills Regional High School, where she competed in soccer and basketball before graduating in 2001.
During her junior year of basketball, the Windjammers went 21-1 and won the Class B state championship. A year later the team returned to the regional semifinals before being ousted by a Mount Desert Island team that went on to win three consecutive state titles.
“Anna didn’ t play a lot in the state championship year,” said Camden Hills coach Jay Carlsen. “And her senior year she didn’ t play a lot either, but she probably had her best game in the last game of her senior year against MDI.”
In that game MDI jumped out to an 18-2 lead, largely because of eight points by Trojans center Melissa Gott in the game’ s first 2 minutes, 32 seconds.
Carlsen then brought in the 6-foot Goodale to defend against Gott, and her work helped Camden Hills cut into that deficit before losing by a final score of 58-47.
“She was the difference in that game between us getting blown out and having a chance to compete,” said Carlsen.
By the time she headed off to college, Goodale was in search of a new competitive challenge, and found it by walking onto the rowing team as a freshman at Syracuse University.
The seven years since then have seen Goodale on the fast course to an elite level.
She gained her first exposure to Team USA rowing circles during the summer between her freshman and sophomore years at Syracuse when she attended a national team development camp in Ithaca, N.Y.
She went on to earn Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association All-American honors while at Syracuse, and for the last four years she has been on the national team.
Goodale, who now lives in Princeton, N.J., and is affiliated with the U.S. Rowing Training Center, already is a two-time world champion in the women’ s 8 as a member of victorious U.S. teams in both 2006 and 2007.
She complements her athletic career by being a professional illustrator, inspired in part by great-great-great-grandfather Charles Dana Gibson. Gibson was a noted graphic artist who eventually settled in Islesboro and was best known for creating the “Gibson Girl” illustrations that represented the independence of American women at the turn of the 20th century.
“My career as an artist was put on the back burner while I chased my Olympic dream,” said Goodale. “Only recently, with illustrating my first children’ s book, has it become a large part of my life again. It is a great balance to the physical intensity that rowing requires.”
Like Goodale, the 20-year-old Logan is a first-time Olympian. She began her rowing career while attending the Brooks School in North Andover, Mass., graduating in 2006.
While at Brooks, Logan won gold medals in the junior 8, junior 4 with coxswain and intermediate 8 at the 2004 U.S. Rowing national championships, and the next year won gold medals in both the elite 8 and senior 8 at the same meet.
Logan then moved on to Stanford University, where she was named All-Pac 10 and All-American as a freshman before taking the most recent academic year off to focus on her bid to make the Olympic team.
“Last August, when I decided to take the year off from Stanford, I never could have imagined this year to be as difficult as it was,” said the two-time national team member in a Stanford press release. “There were incredible highs and lows, but the goal of making the Olympic team and competing in Beijing kept me going. With the support of my friends and family, and a year of training with the nation’ s best rowers and coaches, I made it.
“I know the hardest part is yet to come,” added Logan, who was an alternate on the 2007 U.S. world championship team. “But we’ re ready to put everything we have into having our fastest race at the Olympics. I could not be more excited to represent the USA in Beijing with my teammates.”
Allen, 29, is the most experienced of the Maine Olympic rowing contingent.
The Portland High School and University of Virginia graduate is a seven-time senior national team member in addition to being a two-time Olympian.
He was part of the U.S. men’ s 8 team that set a world record during the preliminary rounds of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens and then went on to win the gold medal in the finals.
Allen also was named the 2007 U.S. Rowing Male Athlete of the Year.
The United States is expected to battle Canada and Great Britain for the gold medal in the men’ s 8 at Beijing.