TAMPA — Spencer Burdge was sure of one thing: He didn't want to row a boat.
No, Burdge didn't have anything against nursery rhymes but the last thing the then-incoming Tampa Prep freshman wanted to do was follow in his sister's footsteps.
Taylor Burdge, Spencer Burdge's older sister by four years, was a nationally decorated rower for the Terrapins. Spencer Burdge chose the land route, veering toward a future in tennis.
"Tennis was my thing and I didn't want to row because that was her thing," he said.
Burdge was good enough to make the Terps' varsity tennis team as an eighth-grader, but an injury prior to his freshman season set him down a different path.
"(Rowing) was just a lot more fun than I expected," he said.
Burdge also liked what it was doing for his physique. Before long, he was hooked.
"Between freshman and sophomore year I lost about 25 pounds because of it and turned a lot of fat into muscle," he said.
Now Burdge, who recently wrapped up a stellar career at Tampa Prep, will again follow in his sister's footsteps when he heads to Stanford to row for the Cardinal.
"It's an amazing setting to row and place to go to school," he said. "But I do remember explicitly saying I didn't want to go there because that's where Taylor picked."
Although the two sports are pretty different, Burdge said there is more in common between a tennis racquet and sculler's shell than one would think.
"In training, it's a lot of alone time and repetition in both sports," he said. "You keep doing the same motions and try to perfect them."
Burdge also said he likes the tangible link between hard work off the water and end result. Burdge holds five Tampa Prep ergometer test records.
"My coaches got angry at me on multiple occasions because I was training harder than they thought I should have been," he said. "I just kept working out extra and started beating all the seniors and team records by the middle of my sophomore year. It was working."
And in between, Burdge somehow found time to maintain a weighted 4.21 grade-point average and earn the rank of Eagle Scout. Less than 5 percent of Boy Scouts ever reach the prestigious level. For Burdge's service project as required for completion of the Eagle Scout badge, he organized 14 volunteers from Tampa Prep and a local Boy Scout troop to help rehabilitate four large shipping containers. Local rowing clubs used the containers to store equipment.
"He put in 11 years between Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts to reach that pinnacle of Eagle Scout," said father Bruce. "They are kind of teaching renaissance men who learn to do a little bit of everything from shooting guns, to electrical work to learning how trains operate."
And although Burdge never intended to follow his sister into the water or out to the West Coast, it seems to be working out just fine. And, of course, big sister reminds him of it every chance she gets.
"Yeah, she's pretty smug about it," he said. "But it's so far away and a different environment, it's a big advantage for her to have gone through it already. She's been a great role model."