Ashish Venumuddula isn’t likely to forget his first time in a boat. His introduction to rowing has been life changing.
“My mom signed me up for a weeklong trial row with WRC, a local rowing club, when I was in eighth grade,” says Venumuddula. “Towards the end of that week, while we were on the water, it was just the most beautiful day outside and so calm and peaceful, and I thought to myself, ‘Wow, I could do this for the next four years of my life.’”
Four years and counting …
After an incredible four years of rowing at Pioneer High School, Venumuddula is going to continue his time on the water at the next level – and an impressive level at that.
“I plan to attend the United States Naval Academy and I’m considering rowing there in the fall,” he says. “Currently, I haven’t decided on a particular major to study.”
But let’s rewind to the early days in the boat for a young man learning a new sport and getting to know a team full of new friends. Venumuddula says those early days as a ninth-grader at Pioneer didn’t exactly row by without some waves to navigate.
“I was a pretty small guy, even by freshman standards, at the beginning of my rowing career,” he says. “And I wasn’t in great rowing shape, so especially at the beginning, it was a fight for every seat that I’ve ever rowed in, all the way up until even the beginning of senior year.”
But Venumuddula has always welcomed a challenge.
“Yeah, that’s a big part of why I like rowing,” he says. “I think that no matter who you are, big or small, you have a chance at success, as long as you put the work in.”
Venumuddula was named one of the team captains for this year’s men’s team. Those duties include anything from assembling the boat trailer to creating boat lineups for practice.
“But additionally, as a leader for our team, fostering a sense of community and brotherhood is also something I take a lot of pride in,” he says.
Another area of pride has been in the results. Venumuddula has racked up a long list of accomplishments both in and out of the water. Like the great teammate that he is, he passes along the credit for his success to his fellow Pioneers.
“The success that I have had throughout my high school years is a team effort, as you win and lose with all the other people in your boat, sometimes by less than a tenth of second,” he says.
Here are some of Venumuddula’s most memorable races:
- 2nd place in the Midwest freshman year in the Men’s Novice 8
- 5th place at Canadian Nationals freshman year in the Men’s Junior 8
- 5th place at Canadian Nationals freshman year in the Men’s 65kg 4
- 4th place in state sophomore year in the Men’s Lightweight 8
- 6th place at Canadian Nationals sophomore year in the Men’s Junior 8
- 5th place at Canadian Nationals sophomore year in the Men’s 72kg 4
- 6th place in the Midwest junior year in the Men’s Junior 8
- 3rd place in the state junior year in the Men’s 1st Varsity 8
- 5th place at Canadian Nationals junior year in the Men’s 72kg 8
Venumuddula admits that being stranded on the shore this spring has been difficult.
“Not being able to compete has been hard, in the sense that I was looking forward to it for a long time and the fact that we have such a strong team that was poised to do so well,” he says. “But when contrasted to all the families and people that are hurting because of COVID-19 and the serious issues that come with a pandemic, it’s like comparing anthills to mountains.”
Like any great leader, Venumuddula tends to look at the positives of any situation and says he’s been impressed with the way the community both near and far have worked together to face this incredible challenge in our history.
“I find it really heartwarming that people are really coming together in this crisis and helping each other out, and all those stories of people buying groceries for their neighbors and thanking healthcare workers are very encouraging for me,” he says. “Not having school has been surprisingly bittersweet for me, especially with most of the senior activities being cancelled, but it has definitely been less work.
“In terms of keeping busy during this break, I have watched quite a few movies, but also have been connecting with family and friends virtually, and running daily.”
Ashish, the son of Sunanda and Venudhar Venumuddula, has a 3.97 GPA and was a National Merit finalist. He also was a member of National Honor Society, Student Council, International Affairs (Model UN), Tomorrow Together and Science Olympiad.
And while he’s excited about joining the Naval Academy, he’s going to miss quite a bit about his time at Pioneer.
“When it comes to rowing and PRC, I think I’ll miss all the guys and the community that comes with rowing at Pioneer,” he says. “The friendships and camaraderie are definitely things that I will take with me into the future.”