BOSTON – Alexander Antonellis of Harwich is passionate about endurance sports, and that includes crew, in which he competes for Dublin School, a private college prep school in New Hampshire. But recently Antonellis had his rowing skills tested when he traded his sculling oar for a canoe paddle and took part in the annual Run of the Charles.
The Run of the Charles is the signature event of the Charles River Watershed Association and is also the largest flat-bottomed boat race in New England, with more than 1,500 racers taking to the river waters for myriad races each spring.
This year Antonellis decided to try his hand at the 24-mile relay, paddling about five miles with teammate Grady Allen, a feat he said proved more intense than he'd expected.
“Canoeing is actually very different from rowing,” Antonellis said. “They're not the same at all. It was actually really challenging. I thought it was going to be a bit easier than it was.”
Antonellis got a good taste of what he was up against when he and Allen spent the first few minutes of the race trying to play some music through a portable speaker. While Allen worked with the technology, Antonellis kept the canoe moving, which he said was more difficult than would seem given the river currents. But he credited crew for spurring him onward.
“Being athletic and being in shape is obviously useful, but I think it's all the mindset, that mindset you develop from being on a competitive team,” he said. “Sometimes that's how these endurance challenges are. It's really about having that mental game to say, 'You've got to push through now.'”
Antonellis was inspired to attend Dublin School by the experiences of his older siblings, including an older brother who also attended the school.
“They had great opportunities they wouldn't get down on Cape Cod, and it's a way to put yourself ahead in terms of preparing for college,” he said.
The school also offered Antonellis the opportunity to get into the endurance sports of cross-country running, Nordic skiing, and crew, which he is especially enamored with.
“It's the whole team aspect of it that I love,” he said. It's not like a team sport like soccer where you might have a couple good players and a couple bench players. Everyone in the boat is equal. If you're in a four-person boat, you're doing 25 percent of the work.”
It was through his various sports that Antonellis decided to take on a few endurance events the school participates in, including Reach the Beach, a trek from the White Mountains to Hampton Beach, and the Run of the Charles. In the future he's got his sights set on the Canadian Ski Marathon.
When it comes to crew, Antonellis said his team is quite competitive.
“In the past five or six years Dublin School has become known for our endurance sports, so we have a bit of a reputation to hold up,” he said. “This is my first year in the first varsity boat. It's a very rigorous team. We had a race this past Sunday and lost by just six feet. It's very intense.”
Though Antonellis's main goal in taking part in the Run of the Charles was for the paddling experience, it helped to know that at its heart the event is about promoting a healthy river ecosystem.
“It was a bit more of a personal challenge, but that [aspect is] a very good thing,” he said. “It's important that we keep the river clean and healthy.”
Antonellis hopes his decision to keep pushing his boundaries inspires others.
“I think the big takeaway from this is, if you have the chance to try something like this, to push yourself, it's a beneficial experience,” he said. “You learn what you can do. I would definitely encourage anybody who's thinking of it to try an endurance sport.”