“Last year I knew I wanted something new in my life, but I didn’t know how big a part of my life it would become,” Trumbull High’s Maggie Walsh said of her decision to take up competitive rowing.

“I wanted to try a sport that was physically demanding. I asked my parents, because my dad Mike rowed at the University of Rhode Island,” Walsh said.

“My mom Margaret made it all possible. None of this would happen without her support and I’m so grateful.”

Almost a year removed from meeting with coaches at the Norwalk River Rowing Association to learn about the sport, Walsh signed a letter of intent to row for coach Joe Wilhelm’s Northeastern University Division I women’s rowing team.

“I contacted Northeastern and Sarah Ivey, an assistant coach, kept in touch and invited me up to stay at the school for a couple of days.

“I had an order of schools in mind, and when I visited over the summer it just clicked.

“I met with Coach Wilhelm and he is a big reason I knew that it would be a great fit.”

“We were impressed with Maggie from the first day we met,” Wilhelm said. “She is a mature, confident young woman with who we feel will excel in the classroom as well as on the water.
“While she has only rowed a short time, she has a solid athletic background and all of her coaches confirmed that she is a fiery competitor with a strong work ethic.
“She has taken to rowing quickly and I see tremendous potential in her as a collegiate athlete at Northeastern University.”

That was the closing chapter in the recruiting saga that began with what turned into a daily trip down the turnpike.

“Megan Mahoney was from Trumbull and competed with Norwalk and said she loved it,” Walsh said.

“I started with the winter training program and decided to stick with it. Megan’s sister Danielle is now on the team with me.

High school rowing boasts varsity and junior varsity divisions with limited space for novices.

“My first coach at Norwalk, Bryan Pape, was really helpful and showed a lot of faith in me,” said Walsh, who started working with a varsity crew from the outset.

“He put me with the varsity and that helped my progress. The girls were all talented and experienced. That was good in the long run because I got better faster.”

Walsh worked her way to starting in the 5-seat in the Varsity 8 shell. The middle four, seats 3-6 are the strongest rowers.

“It starts with the coxswain sitting in the stern steering,” Walsh said. “The seats go 8-1 from the back of the boat forward. It’s all about keeping stroke and patterned rhythm.”

This is where Walsh had a head start on the competition.

A member of Color Guard from 7th grade until junior year when she chose to take up rowing, Walsh has been drum major of the Trumbull High Marching Band the past two years.

“Dance, movement and fitness are big parts of Color Guard,” said Walsh, who followed her older sisters Kayla and Erin on to the field.

“Kayla went to Syracuse University, where she was tenor saxophone and became section leader.

“I got to do band with her when she was a senior. Kayla is a first-year law student at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

“Erin and I got to go to the World Championships [top 25 teams] in Dayton, Ohio together for three years.

“She stopped Color Guard in junior year as well, and produced a limited TV series called Behind the Cause. Erin is a freshman at Loyola Marymount University, where she’s in the School of Film and Television.

“I’m so proud to be their sister.

“Our marching band is excellent and will be competing at the Fiesta Bowl [in Arizona] on Dec. 27.

“I began playing saxophone, then baritone sax so timing with the band, the synchronization, has helped me with rowing.”

Walsh has a busy schedule. She attends fall rowing practice Monday through Friday in Norwalk, back to Trumbull for Tuesday and Thursday evening marching band practice, all day Saturday band practices and competitions, and squeezes in a few Sunday regattas (rowing competitions.)

Walsh, who competed in Pair (a shell with two rowers) in Ontario this past August, still finds time to maintain a stellar grade point average and is president of the National Honor Society.

“I would like to be a business major,” Walsh said of her academic plans. “It is a great school.”

Northeastern concluded its fall season at the Foot of the Charles Regatta, where NU posted top-10 finishes in each of the day’s three classifications.

The Huskies, who have battled injuries for much of the fall, turned in what Wilhelm called the team’s strongest performance of the fall.

The Red and Black also earned top-10 finishes in the novice eight and third-varsity eight races.

“The goal for each crew this weekend was to put together a strong, consistent performance from start to finish; to have our performance reflect our hard work and preparation this fall,” Wilhelm said.

“I feel we accomplished that goal, and that these results are an accurate assessment of where we are as a team at this point in the year.”

Northeastern now will turn its attention to the spring season, where it will look to build on last year’s impressive showing.

A year ago, the Huskies captured the CAA crown — their third in four years — placed four athletes on the All-CAA first team, and saw Wilhelm awarded CAA Coach of the Year honors.

NU concluded the 2012 season by earning medals in four grand finals at the Eastern Sprints, including a silver-medal showing in the varsity eight race.

The second-place finish was the Huskies’ best-ever in 32 appearances in the East’s most prestigious rowing event.