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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Senior announces commitment to UC Berkeley’s Division I rowing program 

Leo Shetler

Senior Leo Shetler (right) and his rowing team race to the finish at the 2023 U19 World Rowing Championships. 

Senior Leo Shetler remembers feeling as if his heart stopped as he looked down at his ringing phone in early October. He saw the caller ID display Brandon Shald, the assistant rowing coach at UC Berkeley. With the coach reaching out to his mom first, he knew an offer to be on the school’s rowing team was coming.

He was thrilled to officially accept the offer. 

Ever since a friend recommended the sport to him as a young teen, Shetler has been rowing competitively at the Los Gatos Rowing Club. He was a natural talent and kept improving while being spurred on by remarkable results. Shetler realized during his junior year that he wanted to pursue the sport in college. Starting the recruitment process in March of 2022, he emailed numerous coaches, submitting his rowing statistics as well as videos of him at competitions. 

With multiple back-and-forth conversations between prospective schools, coaches began watching him at competitions. His results were already impressive, but one accomplishment that set him apart even further from the other competitive rowers was competing last August with the USA Under-19 (U19) national rowing team at the World Championships hosted in Paris.
Last January, Shetler attended a USA identification (ID) rowing camp held in Marin County to showcase his skills. He was selected as one of the top 31 athletes from the camp, and was sent to a selection camp at the San Diego Olympic training facility along with chosen athletes from the other 30 ID rowing camps across the U.S. 

From there, he was chosen to advance further with 15 other rowers to the U19 Men’s Rowing Championships and ultimately made the U.S. coxswain team, which consists of three rowers and a coxswain. Shetler occupied the stroke seat — the front rower and typically the most technically proficient — at the championships. Rowing a total distance of 2000 meters, the team ended up placing fifth — an outcome crucial for his college prospects.

“After we started emailing back and forth, coaches came to watch me at some of my races, but I think that my results at the championships were the most important factor in the recruiting process,” Shetler said. 

Wanting to learn more about Berkeley’s school environment, he arranged an official visit — not too long after the World Championships — and lived in a college rower’s dorm from Sept. 22-24. 

“During the official visit, I was able to sit in some of the classes that my shadow host was in, but the thing I really liked was the team atmosphere,” Shetler said. 

He got to know the team by watching their practices and chatting with team members; at the end of his official visit, he decided Berkeley was his top-choice school.

“Not only do I really like the school and team, but there’s also the factor of in-state tuition, so it’s cheaper than a lot of other schools,” Shetler said. “So that’s why I felt like Berkeley was the perfect fit for me.”

Shetler plans to pursue economics at Berkeley while participating on the rowing team. Berkeley is currently ranked first among college rowing teams, after winning the national championship last year. Shetler encourages aspiring athletes looking to get recruited to keep in contact with college coaches.

“Usually, the coaches don’t respond because they’re busy, so always make sure to follow up,” Shetler said. “Even though the process may seem difficult, just keep working hard and staying positive.”

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