When Greens Farms Academy senior Piper Melnick first signed up to be a rower, she was more interested in the social aspect of the sport.
Five years later, it’s taking her across the country to college.
Melnick signed an NCAA Letter of Intent last week, announcing she was going to join the rowing program at the Division 1 University of California, Berkeley.
“It was more of a social activity for me my freshman year, but as I moved to the varsity team my sophomore year it became much bigger than that,” Melnick said. “I felt the true unfiltered passion and trust between the seniors and girls in top boats and it piqued my competitive interest.”
The coxswain was also drawn in by the concept of many people working together toward one goal.
She explained, “Everybody comes into practice, letting go of their day, and puts their heads down to work. I know I am completely in control of my success, and that's what's so appealing about it. The more I put in, the more I get out.”
Saugatuck Rowing Club director of rowing Gordon Getsinger remembers Melnick learning all she could about the sport before getting a full-time shot in the boat.
“She seemed quiet to me, but I didn’t really know her,” Getsinger said. “That quietness was more her just observing and taking it all in. Slowly but surely, she found her voice. The coxswain is the implementer and executer of the race plan—the brains of the boat—and Piper has really blossomed into somebody who has found success in the boat.”
A long trip to the West Coast might intimidate some students, but not Melnick, who said she is ready for the challenge both academically and athletically.
“I chose Cal for many reasons,” Melnick said. “I knew I wanted an academically rigorous school with a highly competitive team, but I also wanted a larger school. Cal fit that perfectly, with an incredible academic program, and a team that has won the NCAA Championships four times. I love the location and that I'll be able to row all year. Talking to the coaches during my recruiting process, I felt an immediate passion for the coaches and team, but I also felt that the team was passionate about me.”
Saugatuck Rowing Club has a long history of sending many strong rowers to compete at the college level, so as Melnick grew into her role competitively, expected that she would follow suit.
“My team has historically committed the majority of their seniors for the last five or so years, so I was definitely aware that I would have a great opportunity for college,” she said. “That being said, the standards for recruitment — especially in rowing — are still very academically intense, so I knew I had to hold myself accountable in school as well as rowing. I'm incredibly grateful for my opportunity to commit and I wouldn't have gotten here without my team or dedication to school.”
While she hasn’t decided on a major yet, Melnick is interested in law and cognitive science.
“I plan to take a lot of classes that interest me and go from there,” she said.