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Full boats for 5 college-bound Vero Beach Rowing standouts

Samara Coakley, Liliana Elliott, Aidan Powers, Zadie Diniz, and Lorelei Carter.

A remarkable group of five high school seniors sat at tables festooned with banners and balloons at the Vero Beach Rowing Toffey Rowing Center, eager to put pen to paper and sign commitments to row or cox at four top-rated universities.

They joined students around the country on National Signing Day who had received verbal offers from college coaches and were making their athletic scholarships official by signing their National Letters of Intent.

As the students filed into their seats, a beaming Shotsi Lajoie, past president of the nonprofit, noted that five of Vero Beach Rowing’s nine graduating seniors were signing with four different universities.

“We’re so happy that you are here today to honor our seniors who are signing. They have committed to a college to row or cox next year and we are so excited to celebrate them,” said VBR coach Madison Waddle, to the roomful of proud parents, relatives and friends who looked on.

Lorelei Carter has rowed five years and will attend Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, majoring in aerospace physiology and human factors.

Samara Coakley has rowed four years and will attend the University of Virginia, majoring in human biology on a pre-med track.

Liliana Elliott has rowed six years and will attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison, majoring in art history and pre-law.

Aidan Powers has rowed three years and will attend Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, majoring in computational mathematics and data science.

Zadie Diniz has rowed five years and will attend Stanford University, majoring in symbolic systems with an emphasis in cognitive science.

“We’re so excited for all they’re going to accomplish, but also what they’re going to accomplish the rest of the spring season ahead. They still have racing to do. Their job for us is not over yet,” said Waddle.

“I’m very, very proud of all of them,” said Julio Sanchez, head coach.

“In this season, every time that I meet the senior parents, they are so proud of their kids. But also I try to ask them to remember the journey, all the things that we did here with the support of the board, with the support of all the people who support the program. We cannot arrive to this without them.”

He added that the colleges that they chose and the commitments they were making that day were also based on their own efforts, and he encouraged them to remember where they started so that they might realize the sacrifices it took to get where they are now.

“We row because we love it. And we row because it changes us for the rest of our lives,” said Lajoie.

“I’ve watched these kids change their lives, and what they do for the next 60 years is going to be amazing. I’m so happy that they had a chance here at Vero Beach Rowing to develop a lot of skills, work really hard and love rowing.”

“This is amazing,” said Todd Young, another former president. “It’s been really cool seeing them go from beginning rowers and to see them go to college, it’s pretty amazing.”

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Photos by Joshua Kodis

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