PMHS alumnus in qualifying rounds to row in Summer Olympics


Zachary Heese (File Photo)

Rower and former Pelham resident Zachary Heese is in the qualifying rounds for the Summer Olympic Games. 

A Pelham Memorial High School alumnus, Heese is a world-class rower. He rowed for the Pelham Community Rowing Association as well as the University of Virginia Rowing team, and is now on the US national team. Heese now has a dream of competing in the Olympics. He won a race, giving Heese and his partner Jasper Liu the chance to represent the US in this year’s Olympics. In several months, he will be traveling to Switzerland to try to qualify  for the 2020 (now 2021) Summer Olympic Games.   

Heese’s road to the Olympics has been a long one, but he has an opportunity to see his dreams realized this May. Heese was born in Pelham and started rowing in 2012. He first started rowing for the PCRA, and says that the experience there really got him into the sport. “The school was super supportive and a-lot of my friends that went to Pelham High school all ended up rowing”, Heese said in an interview.

Heese’s biggest inspiration to pursue rowing was the NYAC rowing team. “The cool thing is, Pelham also has a pretty elite rowing team at the NYAC,” said Heese. “It was always cool getting to see the elite guys train at the NYAC. It gave me something to shoot for.”

Heese graduated Pelham and moved onto college. While studying at the University of Virginia, Heese joined their rowing team. He cites this as having a major effect on his rowing, as well as his overall college experience. “The team was so supportive of pushing me athletically, as well as academically,” Heese said. “It was a really good team dynamic, where they not only wanted to see you perform athletically, but also wanted to see you succeed in other areas of life.”

After college, Heesewas not sure if he wanted to continue rowing or not. Seeing his past teammates and friends make the US national team inspired him to keep at his rowing career. 

Heese made his first national team after graduating, but continued to work at his goal of reaching the Olympics. After winning the race at the US Olympic trials, Heese’s dream is closer than ever before. In May. Heesewill travel to Switzerland to try to qualify the United States for the games in July. “It’s been pretty crazy,” said Heese. “We’ve been training hard again, and we’re trying to book flights to Switzerland for the qualification race. Traveling in a pandemic is pretty nuts, as well as getting Visas.”

There are only two remaining spots for the US national team this year, and the competition remains tough. Heese says France will be the team to beat this May. “France won gold in 2016, they will be very good. As well as Britain, Austria and Canada, Which are always good. There will be a lot of very fast countries there,” Heese said.

Heese has an optimistic view on his path forward. “Everything is gravy at this point,” Zach said. “My whole goal was to win olympic trials, I did that. Now it’s either I get to go to the Olympics, or I get the most amazing racing experience that I can.”