It has been a whirlwind of a year for Unionville High School’s Justin Best.
He was an integral part in getting the school’s rowing club off the ground and was able to participate, alongside his brother, in the SRAA National Championship in May in the same inaugural season.
Now, Best will be donning the red, white and blue as he will compete at the 2014 CanAmMex Regatta in Nova Scotia against crews from Canada and Mexico July 11 and 12.
“I’m so excited,” he said. “I’m so pumped and happy and honored. There are tons of different emotions going on.”
In order to even make the team, Best attended a High Performance Camp in Pittsburgh, which he was invited to, for the last three weeks.
Alongside 41 other kids at the camp, Best and the others were put through tests and training to see who stood out above the rest.
“We were selected at the end of two weeks so we had time to practice with our lineups,” he said. “We then flew to Nova Scotia (July 5).
Best was one of just 13 male rowers to be named to the U.S. team for the CanAmMex Regatta.
“I was sitting on the boat with my oar in my hands and I’m just thinking, ‘I’m in Canada,’” he said. “Over on the shore, people are speaking a different language.”
The 2015 senior will be a part of a crew of eight in his boat, which features rowers from California, Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts.
“We have a group of really fast guys,” Best said. “We were out at practice (July 7) and were posting very good times for eights.”
With Unionville, he was a member of a four-man crew, so this is a new change for him, but one he doesn’t mind.
“It’s glorious,” Best said. “The boat is a lot more set, it’s a lot more powerful and it is a lot of fun to row with more guys.”
There will also be some smaller boat races at the event and Best may have the opportunity to do a pair (two-man boat) or a four, but won’t know until the event gets closer.
Though the CanAmMex Regatta is taking place over 1,000 miles away at Lochaber Lake, Best will have support from his father, who is making the 17-hour hike July 9.
“He set himself a goal to make the high performance camp and I’m sure once he got there, he made himself a goal to make one of international teams,” said Glenn Best, his father. “It’s just a great experience to see him and the other guys compete and row for the country.”
It’s been an amazing ride as a parent to watch his son to rise so quickly in a sport in such a short time.
“The genesis was a concussion playing football and he came home and said he didn’t want to do it anymore,” Glenn Best said. “He did a ‘Learn to Row,’ got on the water and said he loved it.”
Now, Best finds himself surrounded by the best of the best of junior rowers and is having no problem getting along with them all.
“It’s a good mix,” he said. “We all get along really, really well. Everyone has a great time. Everyone struggles together, everyone laughs together. It’s a really good camaraderie and it’s part of the reason why I feel so confident in this boat.”
These junior camps can be seen as a feeder program to help groom the next generation of Olympians, something Best has recognized and, he admits, something which has crossed his mind before. At this rate, nothing seems to be out of reach for the rising athlete, including the Oympics.
“I have thought about it, but it’s just a thought,” Best said. “I really want to get through college and see where that rowing takes me. I would highly consider (the Olympics) if I’m good enough at the end of college.”