It was a “mesmerizing” experience for a young Natalie Uytingco.
“My eldest brother rowed for Pioneer and I remember watching them row at Frogtown Regatta in the fall and being mesmerized by the boats on the water,” says the now “older” Natalie Uytingco. “I did the middle school trial row and was committed to be involved with the team.”
Natalie’s brother, Anthony, rowed for Pioneer from fall 2011 to spring 2015. And she learned her brother left behind a loud and impressive legacy.
“I didn’t really know until I joined the team and the upperclassmen told me of his legendary ‘varsity men’ rally calls,” she said. “Him doing the sport before me introduced me to rowing and encouraged me to try out for the team.”
And what were the early challenges with rowing?
“The hardest aspect of rowing during my freshman year was imposter syndrome,” she says. “During my freshman year, I grew strong ties with my boats. Entering my sophomore year, I was thrown in a boat of older rowers. Even after being in that boat an entire season I struggled to feel I actually belonged there. I found the best way to get over this is to ask for criticism. By knowing what I was doing wrong I could try and figure out how to do things right.”
When Natalie was at Slauson she “tried almost every sport offered,” but it was rowing that ended up grabbing a hold of her.
“Rowing is so unique as there isn’t much experience you can have before high school,” she says. “Most everyone comes in on equal footing and learns together. As we all start from the ground up, we build strong bonds that translate to our boats and level of competitiveness on the water.”
Natalie, like all her teammates and athletes at Pioneer, was very much looking forward to her senior year in the water. She says not being able to compete was the worst part of shutting down the schools in the spring.
“Some of my favorite memories throughout high school were from coxing on the water and competing at regattas,” she says. “My last race in the fall was extremely disappointing because of a mistake I made. My entire time on crew now feels like a story left unfinished. Crew has been such an important time in my life. But I believe that this experience, just like all the rest in my coxing career, will motivate me to take advantage of each moment for there are no promises of the future.”
Before we get to that promising future, let’s step back and look back at her impressive resume. As the varsity men’s coxswain, she was responsible to steer the boat, call drills plus pieces, correct technique, motivate, and most importantly, “give out band-aids and sports tape.”
“At regattas, I do all the same but slightly more aggressive,” she says. “While coxing isn’t super physical it is extremely mentally draining. Finding new ways to count to 10 and motivate people who hear me talk two hours a day every week plus regattas takes a lot of creativity and energy.”
She was more than up to the challenge and helped her team cross the finish line of some major accomplishments. Perhaps her greatest accomplishment and highlight during her career at Pioneer was medaling at CSSRA.
“I was honored with coxing the 1v starting my sophomore year and struggled throughout the fall to relate to my crew which was all upperclassmen,” she recalls. “But we put in extraordinary hard work and became the first varsity men’s 8 to medal at Schoolboys. When you medal at this regatta you dock and receive your medals on this platform before stands of parents.”
It was certainly a special moment. But there are enough of those to fill up a few boats. “Some of my favorite moments were taking naps in the tent, under boats, in the trailer, on the bus, and anywhere I could to fight off waking up at 5 a.m.,” she says. “At CSSRA my junior year one of the rooms brought an Xbox and tons of movies. We stuffed maybe 20 rowers in that room and watched Batman and Gladiator until curfew.”
Natalie says she is going to miss the little things that come with being part of a big family. “What I’ll miss most is the Huron River,” she says. “Being immersed in nature for two and a half hours a day was a dream. My boats would sometimes separate from the pack and I would just be silent and enjoy the animals and scenery. The sounds of rowing are super therapeutic and I took the time on the water as a time to escape from my issues and give my all each day.”
Natalie is the daughter of Sara and Gerry Uytingco and her legal guardians are Anthony Uytingco and Kristyn Huige. She rowed to a 3.93 GPA at Pioneer and also was a member of the International Affairs Club, Students Take Action (STA) and DECA – business competition. She will be attending the University of Michigan to study mechanical engineering in the fall.
“With this season left so empty, I’m tempted to walk onto either the men’s or women’s program at U-M but haven’t made any solid plans,” she says. “I dreamed of doing so many things during my freshman year, and for the most part, I accomplished them all. Without my coaches present and past as well as teammates present and past I wouldn’t have made it past my first season.”