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Wilton Rower Aims for Big Finish With Norwalk Club

WILTON, Conn. – Wilton senior Tory Babchak doesn't need words to motivate her as she prepares for her final season with the Connecticut Boat Club. Then again, comments on a rowing magazine blog that insinuate the team is not as powerful as in past years just stoke her competitive flame.

"Everyone on this team is really good,'' said Babchak, who has been rowing with coach Liz Trond since she was in the seventh grade. "We've heard all the talk about this is a rebuilding year, and we got really mad. We can do great things with this team. We've had to step up our game."

Babchak and the rest of the CBC crew kick off the spring rowing season this week on both coasts. Babchak will compete with other members of the club's top teams at the San Diego Crew Classic. The younger members will row in the Greenwich Invitational.

If "rebuilding" is the accurate term for the team, Trond could hardly find a better centerpiece than Babchak. She will continue rowing in college at Northeastern and is one of 10 CBC rowers on this year's team who will continue with the sport.

Babchak is coming off a spectacular 2011 season in which she participated in the USRowing High Performance Camp – only about 16 girls from across the country are invited – and helped CBC win its first race ever at the prestigious Head of the Charles. She joined Meg Galloway, Deirdre Fitzpatrick and Ali Hornung in winning the 4+ last October.

"Tory is a classic example of hard work, dedication to the sport and teammates and a great attitude,'' Trond said. "That was her first glimpse of training, athletics at a higher level and working with older girls to see the possibilities. Each season she added in some more training days and training at a higher level. She has always had a strong physique, and she grew a few inches leading into high school, which really helped her length in the water."

Babchak's sisters, Priscilla and Natasha, also rowed for Trond.

"I played field hockey, soccer and did some swimming growing up, but nothing really stuck,'' Babchak said. "I wasn't a very good runner because I had bad knees. I was always put on defense."

She immediately took to rowing and was part of a Novice 8 with current teammate Abby Stevenson that won the Northeast Championship when they were just eighth-graders. That Novice team went undefeated, often winning by several boat lengths. Her rowing career path has been trending upward since, culminating with her decision to attend Northeastern. Her sister, Priscilla, attends school there and her mother, Jo-Ann, also graduated from the Boston school.

"Tory is a flat-out racer. She is incredibly fit and strong, which is a result of her tireless work ethic," Northeastern coach Joe Wilhelm said. "We look forward to her having a really positive impact on Northeastern rowing."

Besides rowing, Tory's other interests include skiing — she is a weekend regular at Mount Snow in Vermont — and Girl Scouts, where she is putting together the final pieces for her Gold Award, the organization's highest honor.

Before she turns her attention to her college career, Babchak plans to finish strong in her final season with CBC. When the team lost 19 girls from last year's team, it seemed natural to suggest the club was in rebuilding mode. Babchak says the rebuilding started last June, when the Varsity 8+ lost for the first time all season and settled for third in the U.S. Junior Championships.

"Our goal this year is to win it,'' said Babchak, who was not a member of last year's CBC 8+ team. "There's no question we're going back to nationals in the 8. When we lost last year, all of the juniors shook hands and said we were going to come back and win it."

High expectations and great accomplishments are part of the history of CBC. Babchak knows that it comes with the territory, and she embraces it. After all, she is one of the veterans who have seen past rowers set the bar for those coming up behind them.

"Teams better not underestimate us," she said. "We lost a lot of good rowers last year. But we're going to be good this year, too.''

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