Every day at 5:45 a.m. on these chilly spring mornings, Tobin McGee is out rowing.
By Georgetta L. Morque
Every day at 5:45 a.m. on these chilly spring mornings, Tobin McGee is out rowing. Back by 7:30 and after a quick change, he heads to his work as a process engineer at Madico, a leading manufacturer of laminating and coating solutions in Woburn, Massachusetts, which is just outside of Boston. At day’s end, he’s back in a boat again.
This may sound like a grueling schedule but for this national rowing champion and former Rye resident, it’s a part of his life and a journey to ultimately secure a place in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.
McGee, a former Rye High School varsity track and cross-country team member, says he can’t see himself not rowing. “It helps me organize my life and keeps me driven.”
McGee, 25, took up rowing in his sophomore year at the suggestion of his father, a rower, at the New York Athletic Club in Pelham Manor, which had a small junior program. At the time, there wasn’t a crew team at the high school. McGee said it was tough in the beginning because he would row before school and then, after school run track. Sue Dickson, RHS guidance counselor, remembers McGee as an affable young man who was composed, focused, and loved science and engineering.
It wasn’t until McGee attended a summer racing camp in Princeton that he benefited from a team rowing experience. He continued to row all four years at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where he earned a degree in chemical engineering, just like his father, who also rowed there. During his time at WPI, the team celebrated a record success, competing in England and medaling in the Charles Regatta and the New England Rowing Championships in Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester. McGee has fond memories of a great group of teammates.
After graduating in 2010, McGee continued rowing – made the U.S. national team – and competed in two world championships. In Belarus in 2010, he placed 12th in the lightweight quadruple sculls in the Under 23 division. Last summer, he won a bronze medal in South Korea in the lightweight eight. In addition, he’s won national titles in 2007, 2011, and 2012.
McGee says staying healthy and keeping motivated will be important for good results this summer, which is prime racing time. He follows a regimen led by his coach and is disciplined about training and diet. Come winter, he’ll move indoors to work on the ergometer. He also lifts weights, cycles, runs, and skis cross-country.
“It’s a big commitment,” he acknowledges and fortunately, his wife of just one year is supportive. “All the time I use is fully maximized.” And his chances for making it to Rio? “As long as I keep progressing, I have just as good a shot as anyone else,” says McGee, who will be competing in qualifying events along the way.
What advice does McGee have for aspiring young rowers? “The younger you start, the easier it is to learn and improve,” says McGee, noting that opportunities in the sport are five times greater now than when he was in school. He attributes this to schools finding the money to support teams and programs. “It was just a matter of time before the sport started to grow.”