STONINGTON — For Ian Thornell, rowing has been about the community and the feeling of family it creates.
Thornell was introduced to the sport by his father, John, when he was in fifth grade. He would row by himself or with his father. When he was in eighth grade, he started tracking his times.
But it wasn't until his freshman year, when he became a member of the Stonington High crew team, that he took up the sport competitively.
When his senior season was wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic, he missed the people the most.
"I think rowing really comes down to the people," said Thornell, who would've been one of the team's co-captains. "I've played a lot of other of other sports, but it's not the same. The community behind crew is different."
Thornell said it was difficult to not be a part of the team.
"I miss the guys. I don't really see them every day," he said. "Training on my own is not nearly as fun. It was definitely disheartening to have the season ended. Our entire winter is pretty much spent preparing for the spring season. Practice is fun and it hurts. When you are going through that with the other guys in the boat, it adds to that sense of community."
Thornell attended the Marine Science Magnet High School in Groton and rowed for Stonington since he lives in town. Thornell was born in Australia, lived in New Mexico for a few years and moved here when he was 7.
Thornell isn't done rowing — he will continue his career at Boston University next season. He has not decided on a major, but hopes to work in the medical or computer field one day.
"I made some officials visits to some schools and unofficial visits to others," he said. "I liked BU the best, and I liked the rowing side of things there."
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Thornell rowed in the No. 5 or 6 seat, where the power is generated for the boat.
His sophomore year he was invited to the U.S. High Performance Camp and represented the camp at the U.S. Rowing national championships.
As a junior, Thornell was invited to the Selection Camp whose attendees would go on to compete for the U.S. Junior National Team at the World Championships in Tokyo. Unfortunately, he had to withdraw after the camp when he contracted a virus.
Thornell said he has learned the value of time management during his high school days.
"When I was in middle school, I would always delay school work and wait until the last minute," he said. "But with practice and school, you have to manage it better. I think I have more free time now that I have it spaced out the right way."
The Class of 2020 missed out on the typical traditions of a senior year, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.
"For me, personally, I didn't really mind too much. But a lot of my friends were looking forward to prom and graduation," Thornell said.
What advice would he give to someone entering high school?
"Really make the most out of everything," Thornell said. "Take advantage of all the opportunities. Do clubs, do sports. The time you have is surprisingly short."