Bobcat Rower Chris Carlson ’15 and his U23 men’s eight boat won gold and set a new best time at the world championships.
By Kara McDuffee
During the fall of his sophomore year, Chris Carlson ’15 joined the crew team at Brewster Academy just to try something new. He had played multiple sports growing up, but his love for the water and affinity for teamwork spurred him to give the new sport a shot. Six years later, he has rowed all over the nation and the world, even competing – and winning – at the U23 World Championships.
A native of Bedford, New Hampshire, Chris came to Brewster as a sophomore in 2012, inspired to attend by his grandfather, David Carlson, a member of the Class of 1954 and a former trustee. The rowing team was one of the biggest teams on campus, and Chris says he immediately fell into a wide network of friends.
“I had great friends that I still keep in touch with today,” Chris said, reflecting on his time at Brewster. “It was a wonderful community.”
Chris rowed all three years at Brewster and was recruited by Marist College on an athletic scholarship; his rowing career was just getting started. That freshman season at Marist, Chris earned a seat on the top varsity boat and set a school record for the 2KErg test, an extremely trying test of endurance and sprinting that rowers use to compare their fitness levels. He continued to improve and even added a few inches to his already 6-foot stature.
His hard work and success next earned Chris an invite to the USRowing U23 National Team Selection Camp in 2017. He was selected for the USA team and was off to compete in the World Championship in Bulgaria during the summer following his sophomore year. The team took fourth place, with Chris sitting at the five seat of the men’s eight boat. The race also opened up new possibilities for Chris. Driven to compete at a higher level, he transferred to the crew powerhouse University of Washington, where he is now a senior.
“The UW coaches talked about this idea of having to earn your spot on the team – that nothing was going to be given to anyone,” Chris says. “I really liked that.”
Chris certainly understands putting in the work. Perhaps more impressive than his work ethic, however, is his dedication to his teammates.
“For Chris, it’s not just about winning, but winning with his team,” his mother, Catherine Campbell Patterson, says proudly about her son. “He has always been humbled and grateful for the accomplishments in his life.”
And that list of accomplishments is a long one. This past year, he was named Newcomer of the Year for the PAC-12 Conference. He competed on the U23 National Team again, this time rowing in the third seat with five of his UW teammates and coached by Washington’s head coach Michael Callahan.
His USA team competed against senior-level teams at the World Rowing Cup III in Lucerne, Switzerland, and took fourth place. Later in July, they traveled to Poznań, Poland, where the men’s eight won the gold medal and set a new U23 world’s best time in the 2000-meter at 5.22.48.
“I think I was really dialed in during this regatta,” Chris says of the winning race. “We knew that if we wanted to win it would have to be our best race, and we accomplished that.”
While he is not trying to look too far ahead, Chris knows that he wants to keep rowing after his senior year. He has even thought about trying out for the 2020 Summer Olympic team.
His grandfather David has no doubt about Chris continuing to pursue his passion. “If he gets the opportunity, he will row after graduation,” he says. “He’s dedicated.”
Chris’s dedication has certainly taken him far. When asked if he ever anticipated the impact rowing would have on his life, Chris says no. “At Brewster, I just really enjoyed rowing on the lake. It was beautiful and I had some great teammates,” he says. “I’ve gotten more and more into rowing as the years go by. I’m really excited to see where it goes.”
And so is U.S. Olympic Coach Mike Teti who says Chris and his teammates are candidates for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
This story that began with a new boy in the boat on Wolfeboro Bay is not over yet. Check back in two years (or more) for the sequel.