Noa Sreden, back, rows during a race in Michigan on May 2 against Louisville and Iowa. Photo provided by the University of Michigan athletics

PHIPPSBURG — Noa Sreden didn’t pick up an oar until she arrived at the University of Michigan for her freshman year in the fall 2017. 

Four years later, the Morse High School graduate is part of the Michigan rowing team that is competing in the NCAA Division I national championships this weekend in Sarasota, Florida.  

“It’s definitely an environment I didn’t picture myself in five years ago,” said Sreden, a senior. “The opportunity to perform and strive for greatness at such a high level is something I really didn’t ever see myself doing.”

The Wolverines earned an automatic bid to the championships after they won their second consecutive Big Ten championship on May 16 in Indianapolis. 

“To have a culmination of work over the course of a long period of time pay off is a feeling that cannot be matched,” said Sreden. “When you accomplish something with the teammates like I have, it just adds to the moment.” 

Noa Sreden competes on the University of Michigan rowing team, which is in the NCAA Division I championships this weekend. Photo provided by the University of Michigan athletics

Sreden, 22, enrolled at Michigan and decided to major in economics and international studies. She joined the rowing team as a part of the novice program, which was tailored for students who’ve never raced at the collegiate level. 

“I originally went to Michigan thinking there was no way I could play a varsity sport,” she said. “I’ve never been more happy to be wrong.”

The decision to pick up rowing — which is not offered as a high school sport in Maine — was somewhat spontaneous.

“All the freshman girls received mass emails about joining the novice team early on during the first semester,” said Sreden. “I decided one day that if my alarm went off and I woke up, I’d try out.”

Sreden said about 120 student-athletes showed up for the novice team tryouts at Michigan. However, that number dwindled over the course of the season. Sreden rowed for the novice team in her freshman year, then tried out for the varsity squad next year. She earned a spot on the squad.

“Rowing is a sport that you can pick up and become successful at, but there was definitely a huge learning curve,” said Sreden, who competed in soccer, basketball and lacrosse while at Morse. “My fellow novices on the varsity team had done swimming and running in high school, while I did more dynamic team sports. It took a lot of dedication and hard work to get to this point but the experience I’ve gained along the way alone has made it worth it.”

Sreden added that it was a bit of a “shock” to adjust to becoming a Division I athlete.

“Learning how to live under a strenuous training and schooling schedule was a feat on its own,” said Sreden. “My teammates were a great resource to guide me and help me along the way, but I learned how to be dedicated to my habits and use my time wisely.”

Going into Saturday, the Wolverines are seeded in the top five in all three boat classifications. 

Three other Big Ten teams received at-large bids to the upcoming championship races: Ohio State, Rutgers, and Wisconsin. The common opponents gives Sreden and her team some added confidence.

“We’ve gone up against elite rowers from all over the country all season,” said Sreden. “Winning the conference is always our first goal, and it gives us all the confidence we need going into the weekend.”

Sreden will return to Michigan for a fifth year to stay on the rowing team for another season and to add a third major to her degree in Middle East studies. 

“The bonds I’ve made over the years with my teammates and the level of competition I have been a part of are truly awesome,” she said. “My teammates and I have become closer this year despite the separation, and I’ve become a better rower because of them.

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