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Folsom High grad sparkles on the water

By: Matt Long
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Michelle Sechser turned disappointment into gold this summer through hard work, determination and a positive attitude. The 2004 Folsom High alum and now graduate student at the University of Tulsa and assistant coach on the rowing team, traveled to Philadelphia in May with the hopes of making a boat to go to the United States trials and then hopefully on to the World Championships to be held later this month in Poland. Sechser didn’t make the team, but didn’t sit around and pout. Instead, she continued training on the Schuylkill River, which runs through Philadelphia, looking to improve. In July, Sechser, rowing for the Vesper Boat Club, traveled to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, to compete in the USRowing Club National Championships and turned in a superb performance, winning gold medals in the senior lightweight single, intermediate lightweight quad and intermediate lightweight single. Sechser also earned a silver medal in the senior lightweight double and placed fourth in the intermediate double. “Unfortunately, I didn’t make the team to go to US trials, so I decided to stay and train for the summer,” Sechser said. “Philadelphia is sort of the hub for elite rowing with several powerhouse clubs on what’s known as Boathouse Row on the Schuylkill River.” Following the national championships, Sechser traveled to St. Catharines, Ontario, for the 127th Canadian Henley Regatta. In a much bigger competition featuring about 3,000 competitors from all points on the globe, Sechser placed fourth in the lightweight pair and was fifth in the senior lightweight single. “It’s a much bigger, international, competition so I was just happy to make the finals in the single,” Sechser said. While Sechser will try again to make US team for next year’s world championships, her long-term goal is the 2012 Olympics in London. “That’s everyone’s goal and it would be a dream come true,” Sechser said. “If you’re going to dream you should dream big. I have a lot of learning to do, but I’ve had a great summer and a got a lot of experience. Another year of training will definitely help me.” For now, though, Sechser is headed back to Tulsa to continue her graduate studies in marketing and serve as a coach on the rowing team. In her first year of coaching last year, the varsity 4 boat under Sechser’s tutelage was ranked fifth in the south region, a first for the varsity 4 boat at the school. “That was pretty cool to happen in my first year,” Sechser said. “The expectations will be higher this year.” Sechser got her start in rowing as a freshman at Folsom High in 2000 when she joined the Capital Crew team based out of the Sacramento State Aquatic Center at Highway 50 and Hazel. “I wish more people knew about it because it’s a great club,” Sechser added.