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SAN DIEGO – Over 9,000 rowers arrived in Boston last month to compete in the 48th Head of the Charles Regatta.

Two of those rowers were Torrey Pines student Alexandra “Lexie” Tatro and La Jolla High’s Marissa Gibson.

In their first ever trip to the Regatta, the girls made their way from the number twelve position all the way up to second place in the Women’s Youth Double, exceeding even their own expectations.

“I feel like we were  a little bit of underdogs because we’d never raced there and this was our first time racing a double together,” said Gibson. “There were a lot of good girls who’d won before.”

They had to overcome rookie jitters to attack the three-mile course, not to mention Mother Nature.


Photo Courtesy Samantha Tatro

“It was really windy,” said Tatro. “But San Diego is windy, so I told Marisa, ‘This is our water!’ and we started passing one boat after another.”

Thanks to their coach, two-time Olympic Rowing Gold Medalist Susan Francia, the girls never lost faith. And she was waiting at the finish with open arms.

“She came up to us and said ‘You guys got second!!!’ and we all ran up and gave each other hugs,” Gibson recalled.

“I was elated!” said Francia. “I couldn’t stop jumping up and down.”

Francia took gold in 2008 as a member of the US Women’s Eight and again in London 2012, something that her girls admire.

“Shes a really good athlete, and I’d like to be like her,” Gibson said. “It’s important for me to get approval from her .”

_athlete_susan_franciaAccording to Francia, she chose the girls for the Regatta because, in addition to their athleticism, they have heart.

“They both have a lot of fight. They’re not six-foot-two like me, but they want to win, and I love that. It’s something you can’t coach.”

Lexie, who only started rowing two seasons ago, uses Francia’s words of wisdom in all aspects of life. “The one thing I always think about that that she tells us, is to make every stroke count. In a race you might have 200 strokes or 500, but at then end of the day, you may only win by a second.  Take every stroke like it’s your last,”

*Tatro recently accepted a rowing scholarship at Cal Berkeley, and Gibson has her sights set on making the Junior National Team next summer.

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