Elizabeth Sonshine '12 qualifies for World Championships in women's quadruple sculls

Elizabeth Sonshine '12 will compete in the 2017 World Championships in the women's quadruple sculls. (Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Sonshine.) 

PRINCETON, N.J. -- Former first team All-American Elizabeth Sonshine '12 will compete at the 2017 World Rowing Championships as a member of the U.S. National Team.

This year's World Championships take place September 24 through October 1 in Sarasota-Bradenton, Fla.

The heats for the women's quadruple sculls will take place on Sunday, Sept. 24 at 12:36 and 12:41 p.m. eastern time.

Sonshine (Short Hills, N.J.) will compete in the women's quadruple sculls. She is the first women's rower in Bates history to qualify for the World Championships and the second to qualify for the U.S. National Team. Three-time All-American Nicole Ritchie '09 won a silver medal in both the double and quadruple sculls at the 2015 Pan American Games.

"When Sonny was set to graduate she came to me and asked for an honest opinion about her chances to advance to the next level of rowing," Bates head coach Peter Steenstra said. "I told her that she's looking at an 8-12 year process that begins today and you might not make it. She didn't balk. Then I said, 'Your life will be rowing and rowing only.' She smiled and said, 'sounds like a dream.'"

A strong performance at this year's World Championships could set Sonshine up nicely for the 2020 Olympic Games.

"It's definitely a goal of mine" to compete in the Olympics, Sonshine said. "This is a huge step toward completing that. Not to say that it's going to happen but it's definitely going in the right direction." 

Two Bates rowing alumni have competed in the Olympics. Andrew Byrnes '05 won a gold medal in 2008 and a silver in 2012 as a member of Canada's men's eight. Mike Ferry '97 preceded Byrnes by rowing in double sculls for the U.S. at the 2000 Sydney Olympics (he was a semifinalist).  

In addition to Sonshine, Bates will also be represented at the World Rowing Championships by Charlie Biddle '09. He will be coaching the lightweight women's quadruple sculls.

Sonshine majored in geology at Bates and used her senior thesis to help understand the distribution of coastal seagrass beds through geologic history. When she made the U.S. team, one of the first people Sonshine contacted was her thesis adviser, professor of geology Beverly Johnson.

Sonshine recalled how Johnson and her other Bates professors helped her balance her academics and her sport. "They were always really supportive and always wanted to know how the races were going."

"I loved working with Sonshine on her thesis," Johnson said. "She worked hard, did excellent field and lab work, and was fun to be around. And she offered to teach me to row on numerous occasions. Who could ask for more in a student?"

The major requires fieldwork during Short Term during the spring, which often takes students far from campus for weeks during prime rowing season. For Sonshine and the other rowers who were geology majors, the faculty "were able to help us stay local so we could continue to compete on the team," Sonshine said.

"It was great spending pretty much my entire college career outside, whether it was studying geology or competing on the rowing team."