Anna Gambescia helps SJU bring home bronze rowing medal

by Karen Sangillo

Anna Gambescia ended her collegiate rowing career on a spectacular note.  The Newtown resident was the coxswain for St. Joseph University’s Varsity 8, which finished third at the Atlantic 10 women’s rowing championships last month at Fish Creek in Sarasota Springs, NY. 

The Hawks received the bronze medal, the first time they have reached the podium in this event since 2014. They finished fourth in team scoring with 30 points. 

“I don’t’ think anyone in boat was expecting to do as well as we did,” Anna said. “We spent the whole year trying to find the right eight girls to make it go the fastest. It was a long, emotional battle.”

After the preliminary heats, St. Joe’s posted the seventh fastest time. 

“We just barely made it into the final,” she said. “We went back to the hotel and got together and all we wanted to do was beat La Salle. If we did that, we’d be happy.”

Things didn’t start off well. 

“We had a quick start because of the wind so they just did ‘ready, go’ and we drifted into the lane next to Dayton. I saw the girls look over and see Dayton so close to us and I just told the girls they need to trust me and just row and I’d get them back into our lane and we did it. 

“We passed Dayton and when we cleared La Salle I told the girls we were good, we’re about to pass Duquesne. I’m usually very calm but I was screaming that we were about to get a medal. It was just incredible crossing the line. 

“I immediately jumped into the seat in front of me and hugged Riley McDade. We were all screaming and crying. It was really an emotional thing for all of us. 

“We beat Dayton and we were right up there with Rhode island and George Washington and they’ve been leading our conference for years. It was a bronze, but it was everything to us. So much blood sweat and tears went into this.”

Anna began her rowing career eight years ago at Swan Creek Rowing Club in Lambertville, NJ, at the suggestion of her father, Tony. 

“He rowed at Temple and he told me I’m small, bossy and loud so I’d be good as a coxswain,” she said. “I did it for the men’s team there and I switched to women for college.

“Being a coxswain has a lot of really important parts that are overlooked. The main job is to steer, which I do with strings on the seat that are connected to the rudder. I’m also kind of a mini-coach in charge of making sure we’re all on the same page. 

“I can see where we’re going so a lot of responsibility is on me. I always say I’m the mind of the boat and the rowers are the body. I’m focused on where we are in the river and they focus on rowing.”

Anna, who had a double major of elementary education and special education, is a recent graduate and is already in summer classes at St. Joe’s. She plans to get a masters degree and hopes for a career in learning support for children with intellectual disabilities. 

“Rowing has been my life for eight years so I’m definitely going to continue,” she said. “My dad is coaching at Swan Creek so I’ll probably be helping him coach and do some Masters rowing.” 

She is a 2019 graduate of Council Rock North, where she was named to the Distinguished Honor Roll. 

PHOTO CAP: Anna Gambescia

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