For so many prep-athletes around the country, the late winter and early spring mark some of the most exciting and crucial games and moments of their young careers. And for those lucky few, this time also brings about college offers to play their respective sports at the next level. For years, Coronado High School has continued to pump out college athletes at a remarkable rate, and one of the Islanders that will join the list of those who have made the leap to the next level is senior, and Fordham University Rowing Signee, Shannon Hanlon.
Shannon’s journey and introduction into the sport of rowing is unique, and she didn’t start competitively rowing until she was in the 7th grade. “It was a family friend who asked if I had ever tried or thought about rowing before,” said Hanlon. Though admittedly a bit skeptical, Shannon agreed to watch a practice, and it didn’t take long for her interest to be piqued. “One of the first things I noticed is that a lot of the girls out there rowing looked a lot like me in that they were all really tall. So it felt like I belonged. Plus, seeing them on the water was great too. So, I was hooked pretty quickly.” Shannon was first introduced to rowing at the San Diego Rowing Club, where she continues to row now.
It was clear from the start that Shannon was a natural and extremely talented rower. After rowing for just a year, she had impressed her coaches so much that she was invited to row on the club’s varsity team as an 8th grader—something only a few had done before. “Getting asked to row with the varsity team as just an 8th grader was really cool and somewhat unexpected. I think being teammates with older girls helped me get better quicker and really helped motivate me.” Following her call up to the varsity team for her club, Hanlon quickly became one of the essential members of the San Diego Rowing Club and over the next two years would soon be on the radar of not only several Division I Rowing powerhouses but the United States Olympic rowing team as well.
This past summer, another unique opportunity arose as Shannon had received an invitation from the United States Rowing team to a training and development program in Sarasota. It was an experience that, for Shannon, was genuinely unforgettable. “Getting to train at the Olympic training center was something I’ll never forget. Getting to spend a month there and train with other talented rowers was a once in a lifetime experience.” Shannon also remarked that the time training at the Olympic training center opened her eyes to the future. Following an extremely strong junior season, Shannon began hearing from multiple DI rowing programs such as the University of Miami, Florida State, Stanford University, SDSU. But unfortunately, before Shannon could start taking official visits, the COVID-19 pandemic began. “With COVID, recruiting definitely becomes more difficult. You don’t get to know or get a sense for the coaches that well, you aren’t able to tour the faculties, and it’s harder to get to know the girls already on the team because everything is done via Zoom calls.”
Ultimately Shannon decided to sign with Fordham University, which competes in the Atlantic 10 Division. And while it may be a smaller east coast school, Fordham Rowing continually ranks among the NCAA best. “For me, Fordham checked so many boxes. I enjoyed the girls on the teams; the campus is beautiful, they have a historic rowing program, and it was a place I could really see myself. If rowing for some reason didn’t work out or I got injured, I still wanted to be in a place that I enjoyed outside of rowing. So, Fordham made the most sense.”
I asked the Coronado native if she had any worries or apprehensions about attending a school far from home. In Shannon’s eyes, it was just another opportunity to grow. “The distance from home was something I definitely thought about, but I think being on your own is part of the college experience.”
In her years of rowing, Shannon has accomplished a lot, but of everything that she’s proud of, she’s most proud of receiving a scholarship to help cut the cost of her college education “The scholarship was so important to me because I wanted to make sure my mom would not have to pay for all of my education.”
Shannon will continue to row this spring and summer before shipping out to Fordham. And while her rowing career is still young, it’s hard not to wonder where this young Islander will go. Perhaps the 2028 Olympics? Who knows. But it is undoubtedly a career many here in Coronado will be following closely.