Cole Reiser always wanted to play basketball. But when he tried out for the team as a small, 5-foot-5 freshman at Jesuit Prep School, he didn’t make the cut. So, he turned his focus to rowing and joined Jesuit’s much-lauded crew team.
The Lakewood native went on to earn a spot on the world stage and, perhaps one day, the Olympics.
In late July, Reiser raced in the national rowing team’s pair event, representing the United States at the World Rowing Under 23 Championships in Varese, Italy. He and his partner, Jordan Vanderstoeop of Soquel, Calif., placed second in the B finals (there are A, B and C finals) and eighth overall out of 16 teams. They clocked in at 6:41 for the 2,000-meter race — their fastest time ever as a pair. (The winning time at the 2012 Olympics was 6:08.)
Since rowing is much more prevalent internationally, the competition was fierce, especially in the pair event which has the most entries. Reiser and Vanderstoeop did pretty well considering they had spent most of their time before the championships competing in eight- or four-man boats.
“We’d only spent two weeks in the boat, and we were up against guys who’d spent two years in the boat,” Reiser says. “To be honest, it was an accurate result.”
The pair is the most difficult event, he says, because the fewer people there are to row, the more individual energy it requires to move the boat, which often is slower and more unstable.
Reiser, 22, graduated from UC Berkley in May with a degree in political economy and has since been hired by the Friends of Cal Crew and put in charge of fundraising. He also volunteers as a coach and continues to train on the side. His parents, Ken and Carrie Reiser, still reside in Lakewood.
His dream is to compete in the Olympics, but he says he’s not sure of his path just yet, whether he’ll work toward the 2016 games in Rio or the 2020 games in Tokyo. But he is sure of one thing.
“Now, I’m glad I didn’t make the basketball team,” he says.
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