NEWTOWN – When Council Rock North senior Katie Lustig began her current athletic career in rowing four years ago, she never imagined it would amount to much.
Now, the Newtown native is headed to Duke University to row with the Blue Devil women’s team.
“I just wanted to try it out, there was a camp nearby so I tried it and I loved it,” she said at an athletic commitment ceremony held for Rock North student-athletes in February. “I definitely didn’t start out rowing, thinking about college.”
Rowing with the Prince National Rowing Association (PNRA)/Mercer club, Katie’s career took off. That started her thinking maybe she could continue the sport at the next level.
Lustig had interest in some prestigious colleges around the country including Syracuse and Notre Dame, she knew her heart belonged to Duke.
“I’m really excited,” she said. “This time last year, I wanted to go there. Now, I am actually am going there.
“It’s crazy how it all worked out.
“I looked at Syracuse and Notre Dame but I went to Duke the first time and I was like, ‘yeah, this is my place.’”
“Academically, they’re amazing. But they also have a lot of services available to their athletes. Athletics just has a lot of assets down there and the community is amazing.”
The Blue Devils are coming off a solid season working under the tutelage of first-year coach Megan Cooke Carcagno, who turned in arguably one of the finest first-year coaching performances in Duke Athletics history during the 2015-16 campaign, receiving nearly every coaching award and leading the team to its first ever NCAA Championships appearance
Cooke Carcagno also led the Blue Devils to a second-place finish at the ACC Championship, helping Duke enter NCAAs with its highest ranking in program history at No. 12.
PNRA/Mercer coach Matt Carlsen believes Lustig will excel at Duke, adding that Katie has one of the faster erg scores on the team with a 7:34.0 (2-kilometers).
“I definitely expect that to drop below 7:30 by the time the season ends,” said Carlsen.
“Katie is a hard worker with a great personality. She knows how to bring a light-hearted mood to any situation.”
“I am excited to watch her progress through this season and over the next four years at Duke.”
For the past two summers, Lustig has been part of a varsity-8 plus coxswain girls boat that finished fourth at U.S. Rowing Youth National Championships that took place last June at Mercer Lake. Two years ago, the group captured a silver medal at nationals.
Individually, Katie has earned four gold medals at the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta including metals she collected rowing with a group of eight U19 women and another she grabbed rowing with a U17 group operating a four-man boat with coxswain.
Lustig says this is her last year with PNRA Mercer thought the club does retain plenty of college rowers. She wants to go out with a bang at U.S. Rowing Nationals set for June at Nathan Benderson Park in Bradenton-Sarasota, Florida.
Katie has plenty of confidence heading into her final summer campaign as a high school rower.
“I would love to get to a final at nationals,” stated Lustig. “And it’s going to happen.
“There’s no way I’m leaving Mercer without getting to finals at nationals all three years.”
Two years ago in the finals, with Lustig on board the women’s varsity eight with coxswain, the girls left spectators shaking their heads in disbelief at the rowers’ tenacity and endurance.
While Mercer was lagging behind in fourth place early in the two-kilometer race, PNRA pulled ahead of third place Holy Name Academy (Washington) three-quarters of the way through, giving eventual champion Saugatuck Rowing Club (Connecticut) a run for its money.
Racing reports indicate the event commentator noted a 42-stroke rate by Saugatuck and momentum from PNRA/Mercer that seemed to lift the bow of the boat out of the water on every stroke.
As the race ended, PNRA/Mercer clinched the silver medal spot, missing the National Championship by less than 1.4 seconds.
After finishing fourth last season, the group is looking to get back to the finals this summer and perhaps win.
TOP PHOTO: Council Rock North senior Katie Lustig (second, from right), flanked by her parents and PNRA/Mercer Rowing Coach Matt Carlsen, left. (Steve Sherman – 21st-Century Media)