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New Canaan Rower Hits Homestretch for Norwalk Team

NEW CANAAN, Conn. – Connecticut Boat Club coach Liz Trond has a special relationship with each of the seniors on this year’s team. But New Canaan’s Abby Stevenson, who has been with Trond since she was in eighth grade, is extra special.

“She is never the loudest, most talkative, outrageous,’’ Trond said. “We have had plenty of those. But she is the one who has tied the team together. We lost a lot of amazing athletes last spring, and she kept her head up and kept the team working to build something strong for this year. I have never heard a negative comment come out of her mouth. Ever.”

Stevenson’s career with Trond as a high school rower will come to an end in the next few weeks. She is expected to be on CBC’s Varsity 8 when it competes in the Northeast Championships this weekend in Worcester, Mass. The top three teams advance to the U.S. Youth Nationals next month in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Under Trond, Stevenson has been part of some special teams. Last year’s Varsity 8 went undefeated until the national championships, where it finished third. Thought not quite as strong as last year, Stevenson has helped the club’s signature boat to another strong showing this year, including a second place finish at the San Diego Classic in April against some of the top teams in the nation.

“Last year was a very talented group,’’ Stevenson said. “We knew they’d be hard to replace. We surprised ourselves a little bit with what we’ve accomplished this year. Everybody is totally willing to make sacrifices for the good of the team. It’s a great dynamic.”

Stevenson and Wilton’s Tori Babchak, who also joined Trond as an eighth-grader, have been through more than most. They were part of two Norwalk clubs with Trond before she created her own program. Stevenson, Babchak and the rest of the girls chose to stay with Trond.

“We trusted her completely,’’ Stevenson said. “Whatever she said, we’d do. If she thought that was the best thing for us, that’s what we were going to do. I trust her 1,000 percent.”

Stevenson had choices. She played soccer up until eighth grade, when her mother suggested she give rowing a try. “I figured I’d give it a shot,’’ she said. “I fell in love with it right away.”

The decision looks brilliant in retrospect. Stevenson will attend Dartmouth College in the fall and has been rated among the top five athletes in terms of power in a metric used by USRowing. Trond believes Stevenson has the physique and temperament to be one of the top women rowers in the nation.

“She has worked hard to build her strength and power,’’ Trond said. “Some athletes peak early. Her best days are definitely still ahead for her. She is nowhere near what she will be able to do in the next four years and beyond.”

Stevenson is one of 10 girls from the club heading to college to row. The others include Ali Hornung, who is going to Virginia; Shelby Penfield, University of Southern California; Deirdre Fitzpatrick, USC; Sarah Schwartz, University of California Berkeley; India Knight,  Columbia; Babchak, Northeastern; Lizzie Steinborn, Fordham; and Emily Olsen, Wisconsin. Lexie Lynn, a gap year student, will also attend Dartmouth in the fall.

Before Stevenson thinks about college, she has some unfinished business with Connecticut Boat Club. The team has a good chance to make it back to nationals and maybe earn another medal.

“I definitely think we can make it back to nationals,’’ she said. “We’re going for it. I think even in the last few weeks we’ve come together. We can make things happen. When we want it, we can produce it.”

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