University of Rochester

Rochester Undergrads Row Their Way to a World Record

March 1, 2012

Ross Pedersen '13 and Joe Prosack '14 share a lot in common. They're both economics and math dual majors at the University of Rochester, they were both born in the same year, and they are both members of the school's rowing team. On Friday, February 24, the two undergrads found one more thing to share: an indoor rowing world record for the lightweight tandem 100K division.

World records are recorded and verified by Concept2, a company that designs and sells indoor rowing machines and hosts the world's indoor rowing machine championships. Pedersen and Prosack rowed for more than six hours in the public spaces of the Goergen Athletic Center, and are submitting paperwork and witness testimonials to Concept2, but anticipate that the company will verify their feat.

As members of the University's rowing team, Pedersen and Prosack decided to go for the record in December after Pedersen, a graduate of Fairport High School in suburban Rochester, learned that a record he set in 2008 as a junior rower (under 19 years) was recently broken.

"Learning I no longer held a record definitely served as motivation to try it again," said Pedersen, who has been a member of Rochester crew since summer 2009. "And, I knew the public setting would raise awareness of the rowing team on campus."

Pedersen tapped fellow teammate Prosack to participate, knowing the two had complementary strengths.

"When Ross approached me about doing it, I thought 6-plus hours on the erg was a crazy idea," Prosack, a native of Scarborough, Maine, said. "But you don't know what it's going to be like until you try it. We did a two-hour trial run last week to see if we could do it and it was great."

Prosack and Pedersen have been in a high endurance phase of training for two and a half months, since the on-water fall season ended, often rowing on the machines in the alumni lounge in the Goergen Athletic Center. Indoor tandem or team rowing records are attempted on one machine that clocks time, distance and speed. Rowers switch on and off throughout the tandem effort. Much of Prosack and Pedersen's training was devoted to strategizing who should row during each portion of the 6 hours and 12 minutes at world record pace. While Pedersen has been rowing since high school, Prosack is relatively new to the sport, with only two years of experience. The two decided to split the first half of the course evenly. As they advanced into the second half of the course, Pedersen took longer, more paced legs and switched off to Prosack, who went shorter distances at a faster pace. At the end of the race, Prosack did two minute sprints, while Pedersen kept a steady pace.

"I ran track and cross country in high school, so the endurance pace helped me a lot in getting up to Ross's level in such a short amount of time," said Prosack.

The strategy paid off.

"Not only did we break the record for our age group, we broke it for every age group," Pedersen said.

"It was a big learning experience," Prosack added, noting one of the biggest challenges was maintaining hydration and eating the right amount of food in between rowing shifts. Between the two, they burned 7,200 calories during their attempt.

What comes next for a pair who has already accomplished so much?

"We're trying out for a spot to represent the U.S. in the World University Rowing Championships," Pedersen replied.

Tryouts for Worlds are in late June, and if they're successful, they'll share one more thing in common: a passport to Kazan, Russia, and a spot on the U.S. team.