The very first time Andy LeRoux ’20 sat in a boat, he knew that this was something he was passionate about.
“My best friend at the time was a rower. He suggested I try it out, and I went down to the boathouse in Florida and instantly fell in love with it,” he told The Daily Princetonian.
LeRoux, a Florida native, began his rowing career 10 years ago during his first year of high school. During his high school career, he was on the Team USA and competed in the Junior World Rowing Championships. His success in high school eventually led him to Princeton, where he was a member of the men’s heavyweight crew team. But even before stepping foot on campus, LeRoux aspired to take rowing as far as he could, setting his sights on the Olympics as early as his high school years.
In an interview with the ‘Prince,’ LeRoux reflected on his early experiences at Princeton.
“Early [in] my freshman year, one of the guys I looked up to a lot was Nick Mead [’17]. He was the captain my freshman year. He’s a great guy … was a good team leader. He came out [to one of the training centers] right after he graduated and then ended up going to [the] Tokyo [Olympics],” LeRoux said. “I feel like he was always a good role model for me and an inspiration.”
For LeRoux, leadership and general experience in collegiate rowing has helped prepare him for his professional rowing career.
“[College] is almost like a development period for going on an international level. A lot of the guys that are here did [under-23s] at some point or were in the top of the programs in college,” LeRoux explained.
While he still has much rowing to do, LeRoux credits Princeton’s program for his growth and preparation for competing at such a high level.
“[College] definitely kind of prepares you for coming out here in training, trying to make the Olympics … there's more to go after college, but I think [I] definitely got a lot better at Princeton,” he said.
In comparison to training at Princeton, rowing at a professional level has a very different focus. In college, education remained the main priority, but now LeRoux explains that he feels more pressure when it comes to rowing. He emphasizes that unlike his time at the University, there aren’t any second chances.
“In college,” he said, “if you don’t make the top boat, there’s a second boat, or if you don’t make the second boat, there’s the third boat.”
“You’re always going to race. You’re always going to have a good time. Whereas here, if you don’t make the team, there’s no second boat to be in,” LeRoux continued.
With higher levels of rowing comes more intense training. According to LeRoux, while the schedule is similar to his college schedule in terms of workouts, the amount of rowing is a lot different.
“Fitness level is definitely generally higher — you’re competing at the highest level. So I think the biggest difference is at Princeton, you know, we may be trained to like, hit maybe eight sessions a week,” he said. “Whereas here, we’ll do like 10 or 11. And every session tends to be a bit longer, as well.”
In addition to helping LeRoux improve his rowing abilities, Princeton has also helped prepare him academically. He explained that Princeton’s heavy course load taught him crucial time-management skills, a skill he utilizes as he rows professionally while attending classes full-time.
His typical routine consists of two things: rowing and going to class. LeRoux said that he rows approximately 20,000m a day, followed by a second workout in the evening. From 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., he is either sitting in a boat or in a class. Despite a grueling schedule, LeRoux welcomes the hard work, knowing that his efforts move him closer to qualifying for the Olympic trials.
There are two avenues a rower can take to compete in the Olympics: they can be selected at a selection camp or win a trial to qualify. Additionally, for the men’s 8+, the top five places at the World Championships automatically qualify for an Olympic spot.
“Hopefully I’ll make the World Championship team this summer. I don’t know what boat, but any boat would be good,” LeRoux commented.
The next few years leading up to the 2024 Olympics will be extremely important for LeRoux. With a couple of races coming up this summer, he maintains a positive mindset, aiming to make the national team to represent the United States at the World Championships in September.
“All the way through September will be pretty, pretty intense, but I’m definitely looking forward to it,” he said. “I’m definitely excited to actually get some international experience at the elite level. I think it’s definitely helpful to make the World’s teams leading up to the Olympics.”
Even with his ambitions of competing in the Olympics sitting in the back of his head, LeRoux chooses to take it day by day.
“My mind is thinking about it more short term,” he said. “Step one: Make the [World Championship] team this year. And then just take it one step at a time.”
Lizzie Evanko is an Associate Sports Editor at the ‘Prince.’ She can be reached at email@example.com.
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated LeRoux’s role of the Princeton crew team. The incorrect statement has been removed. The ‘Prince’ regrets this error.