Sunday, May 27, 2018
Sports

Tampa Prep's Taylor Burdge looks to defend title at U.S. Rowing Youth National Championships

TAMPA

Tampa Prep senior Taylor Burdge skipped a training session Tuesday while studying for a final exam. And missing even one day of workout was enough to drive one of the nation's top youth rowers bonkers.

"My coach is always trying to get me to take a day off," Burdge said. "But I don't like skipping workouts."

Burdge was so wound up Tuesday night that she had to go on a walk with her father just to burn off some energy.

"When it comes to training," Tampa Prep coach Steve Maher said. "She is relentless."

Burdge will attempt to become the first back-to-back winner at the U.S. Rowing Youth National Championships June 8-10 in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

"There's a direct correlation between how well you do in rowing and how much hard work you put in," Burdge said. "If I'm not working out, I feel like I'm missing out on getting better."

After dabbling in swimming, volleyball and basketball, Burdge found a home inside the shell of a single scull. Burdge estimated she works out between four and five hours a day, training once in the morning and again in the afternoon. Those sessions are sandwiched around a full workload at Tampa Prep, where Burdge is on the dean's list.

"I drop her off at quarter to six in the morning and she just goes from there," Burdge's father, Bruce, said. "She has an unbelievable level of dedication."

Burdge's drive has helped her become one of the most decorated youth rowers around, despite taking up the sport just four years ago. She is a three-time state champion, three-time Southeast regional champion and the 2011 youth national champion, all in the single scull.

In addition, Burdge has also won states twice in the women's four, an event with four rowers in one boat. At the Scholastic Nationals in Camden, N.J., this weekend, Burdge will take the position of "stroke" for Tampa Prep, while Astrid Skjaerpe, Kelsi Richardson and Krissi Damm will be on the bow. Colleen Shells will serve as the coxswain.

For Burdge, the national events are the culmination of a lot of hard work.

"We talk about the '10,000 Hour Rule' in order to master something," Maher said. "She came in as a freshman and knew what she wanted to do and how to get there."

Burdge picked Stanford to continue her rowing career at over Dartmouth, Virginia, Duke and Princeton. The Cardinal won their first-ever women's team NCAA national championship in 2009.

"I love to be outdoors doing anything and the weather (in California) was just so inviting," Burdge said. "It's a big campus with beautiful trees and I just felt at home immediately."

After nationals Burdge will head out West — but not for classes just yet. She is part of a team of young people who are bicycling across the United States to raise awareness of the importance of affordable housing in this country. The trip is organized through a nonprofit called Bike and Build, which has raised more than $3 million during the past 10 years according to the company's website.

"It's an important cause to me," she said. "There are too many people who live on minimum wage and have to work crazy hours just to get by. And because of that, they're missing out on time with their kids and that creates a bad home environment."

Burdge will join 32 other 18- to 25-year-olds on a 75-day, nearly 4,000-mile journey from Portsmouth, N.H., to Santa Barbara, Calif. The team will ride approximately 70 miles per day and sleep "in church basements, campgrounds … whoever will take us in."

Every fourth day or so, Burdge's team will stop to trade their bikes for hammers. The group will spend the day assisting with construction of affordable housing units. Burdge has raised nearly $12,000 in donations, well exceeding the $4,500 minimum.

"I'd run my own handywoman business up in Connecticut during the past few summers, and I love the extreme nature of a bike ride this long," she said. "It was a perfect fit."

Burdge said she also was drawn to the plight of hard-working families who simply don't earn enough money for adequate housing.

"It's not like this is just a handout to people who aren't doing anything. It's to assist people who can't get by on the money they make," she said. "And I truly believe hard work pays off. That's pretty much my motto."

Brandon Wright can be reached at [email protected]

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