Olivia Stockly, a Waynflete High graduate from Cumberland and a Bates College junior, was born to row.

“My mom rowed throughout high school and college,” Stockly said. “And then she became the coach (at Waynflete). Then my brother, who is a couple years older than me, joined the team and everything sort of fell in line, and I started to row and ended up falling in love with the sport.”

Stockly’s sister, Savannah, also attends Bates, and is one of the main reasons Stockly will be in the women’s varsity eight boat in the NCAA Division III championships Friday in Mercer, New Jersey.

Though the Stockly sisters won’t row together due to an injury Savannah suffered, Olivia is grateful for her sister’s role in influencing her to join the Bates program. Savannah will graduate Sunday.

“She’d love to be out here just as much as I love being out here,” Stockly said. “She certainly encouraged me to come to Bates, so I definitely thank her for that.”

OLIVIA STOCKLY

With Stockly – a first team All-New England Small College Athletic Conference choice – the Bobcats are ranked No. 1 in the nation in Division III. It’s easy to see why.

In the first competition at Bates’ new boathouse on the Androscoggin River on April 23, the 21st Presidents Cup, the women’s team won all six races. The varsity eight finished 23 seconds ahead of its closest competitor.

At the Bates Invitational a week later, the varsity eight beat second-place New Hampshire by 29.8 seconds, traveling 2,000 meters in 7 minutes, 14.8 seconds.

Given her family background, Stockly has more experience than most of her teammates. Yet she wasn’t always a rower. Stockly played soccer and softball before transitioning to crew, which proceeded to “dominate my entire life, in the best way possible.”

At Waynflete – one of a handful of high school club teams in Maine – Stockly grew attached to the sport, enjoying the family dynamic the most.

“What I love the most about rowing is when you’re in a boat, you become so dependent on everyone else and it becomes just like a family,” Stockly said. “I think everyone relies on each other to go the fastest you can, and that’s what attracted me the most to it.”

Stockly’s mother, C.C. Stockly, is still the Waynflete coach and president of the Yarmouth Rowing Club. Even if she’s no longer her coach in an official capacity, Stockly rows recreationally with her mother and the rest of her family during the summer to stay fit.

With the exception of the summer, when athletes mostly train on their own, rowing is a year-round sport at Bates. The team rows in a couple longer regattas in the fall, including the Head of the Charles in October. In November, Peter Steenstra, the NESCAC coach of the year, steps out due to conference regulations, but the team unofficially continues to train throughout the winter, with captains organizing indoor practices.

Preparation for the major races begins in earnest in February.

To qualify for the national championships, Bates had to overcome a serious challenge from Williams in the May 12 grand final of the national invitational championships.

The Bobcats won by a mere .401 seconds and took home their third NESCAC title in four years.

“It was a really fun regatta but it was also pretty intimidating to be so close,” Stockly said.

“So I think we’re going in with confidence but not being too cocky about where we’re ranked.”

Still, Bates has plenty of reasons to be feel good about its chances.

The women’s team, making its 11th consecutive appearance at the nationals, won the title in 2015 thanks to a victory by the second varsity eights and a second-place showing by the varsity eights.

The Bobcats were the runners-up at last year’s championships.

“We have so much history that we’re building on. … I think that we all love the program so much and will follow Coach Steenstra’s footsteps as much as we can,” Stockly said. “He has so much love for the sport that we are willing to push through all the pain and the grit to get to the position that we’re in.”