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Ex-PHS rower Parks has college success

Photo provided Rebecca Parks, who graduated last year from Parkersburg High School, poses with hardware from Mercyhurst University’s recent trip to the NCAA Division II national rowing championships.

PARKERSBURG — Following four years as a member of the Parkersburg High School crew team, ex-Big Red Rebecca Parks wasn’t sure what to expect as a freshman when she signed to compete at Mercyhurst University for head coach Adrian Spracklen.

As it turned out, the decision paid immediate dividends following her freshman season.

During the NCAA Division II national championships held late last month in Sarasota, Florida, the Lakers not only finished as the national runner-up in the women’s team race but Parks also was a member of the MU runner-up fours shell.

Parks, who is the bow, was joined by coxswain Zoe Hackenberg, stroke Erin Jackson as well as the three Natalie Peddell and the two Autumn Kearny.

“If we don’t have a coxswain I’m the one who steers,” noted Parks, who added “I’m the one who basically communicates with the coxswain on what we need to do because she faces the opposite way.”

Even though Parks, who is a sports medicine pre-occupational therapy major with a minor in gerontology, and her teammates weren’t able to dethrone the now two-time national champion Central Oklahoma the experience was one she’ll remember for a lifetime.

“We had high hopes that we would make it, but at the same time with everything going on with COVID we didn’t think we’d podium,” she said. “We knew we had a chance. It was really crazy, crazy for a freshman.

“Not very many freshmen get to do that. You don’t really get to see too many freshmen go up and then podium. The team never had one negative thought once we got there. We practiced. We worked our butts off and then it was game time.”

The championships were held at Nathan Benderson Park, which was specifically deigned for crew races and regattas.

In the classroom, Parks said she had a 3.2 GPA the first semester and then a 3.39 GPA in the spring semester.

Although she has lots of school and many more races left at Mercyhurst, she said “I would like to open a practice one day and work with recovering stroke patients who are elderly.

“I worked at a nursing home in high school and I found out I like older people. I’ll do four years and then I’ll have to go back for a masters in 2025.”

During her freshman campaign, she competed in both the fours and at times the eights. The Lakers’ eights team also finished as national runner-up.

“I wasn’t sure what I was walking into with the people they recruited,” Parks said of coming to MU as a freshman. “Once I found out who I was competing with I didn’t stop. I just kept pushing and pushing and pushing so I could find myself in a shell. I didn’t want to be the one sitting on the sideline.

“It (going to MU) was definitely the right decision. I came in and I was a little slower than the rest of the girls who had been recruited, but my coach wouldn’t let me fail. Not just me, he wanted everyone to succeed and he’d come in on his days off and work with people. He was a great coach and he helped me a lot with improvements this year.”

Contact Jay Bennett at jbennett@newsandsentinel.com

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