the boy in the bay: john jaeger
A demonstration in gym class piqued Ladue Horton Watkins senior John Jaeger’s interest in rowing. “I just thought it was really cool,” he recalls. “And when we raced in class, I won and thought I might actually be good at it!” He showed up to the February Learn to Row for St. Louis Rowing Club and after his first practice, Jaeger officially joined the team.

The rowers practice on Creve Coeur Lake; since it’s not wide enough to host races, the team usually travels each season to Columbus, Cincinnati and Oklahoma City to compete. “Spring season is 2,000-meter races, and fall is 5,000-meter races,” he explains. Jaeger, who is eager to talk about his sport of choice to anyone who wants to learn, explains that there are different classes of boats and two types of racing: Sweep racing uses one oar per rower, and skull racing uses two. “Our club races the eight-, four- and two-person sweep boats,” he says.

It’s a sport that requires a lot of commitment. Practices are six days a week, two hours each day during racing seasons, and Jaeger says he likes getting there an hour early to help set up. Starting in November, the team trains inside on rowing machines called ergometers, ‘ergs’ for short, until the end of February, when the lake usually thaws. Varsity rowers spend the summer months on the boat with novices, preparing them for the upcoming fall season.

“It’s always our goal to make it to Youth Nationals and compete against other club teams across the nation,” he says, which is achieved by placing in the top three at the Midwest Regional Championship in Cincinnati. “Ideally, we’d like to win a medal there, but it’s really hard. The eight-person sweep, one of my main races, is the most competitive event.” Finishes are always close. Jaeger placed fourth in that event at Youth Nationals two years ago and was less than a second away from a medal.

He says he’s most proud of his two-person sweep race when he was trying to make the Junior Nationals team. “We were competing against guys who had just won the title in the eight-person sweep, and they only beat us by like 1.5 seconds,” he says. His accomplishments are great regardless; he just signed to row with Brown University, his top choice. “I’ve known I wanted to go to Brown since last year,” Jaeger says. “So I did a pairs race to really show off my technique and get recruited!”

sports_Rachel-Thompsontalk to… rachel thompson
MICDS junior Rachel Thompson is a force to be reckoned with on the basketball court. A member of the varsity squad since her freshman year, not only is she a valuable player, but she is also a respected teammate. Her coaches chose her as one of the team’s three co-captains, a position she accepts with confidence.

How long have you been playing basketball?
My parents signed me up in the third grade, and I just continued on from there.

What is it about the sport that you love?
I love the energy of the game, playing in front of a big crowd. It’s just a lot of fun. My teammates and coaches make it a great environment, very up tempo and energetic.

What position do you play?
Point guard. I make sure all my teammates are in the right place and know what play we’re running. I keep us organized on the court and keep players’ confidence up during the game. It’s also good to make sure we’re not getting too serious and are still having fun.

How is the team as a whole?
What we do off the court shows through in how we play together, so if we don’t have chemistry, you’ll see it. Part of my job as co-captain is to make sure we all get along and are comfortable with each other; we don’t want any conflict. I help ensure we’re playing as a team and no one is being selfish with the ball.

What have been your major accomplishments?
There had been only two district championship titles in the history of the school’s basketball program, and we won the title both my freshman and sophomore year. After districts, it’s on to state, and we haven’t made it past sectionals yet. Our goal this year is to make it into the final four and fight our way to the state championship game.

Do you want to continue playing in college?
Yes, I’m trying to decide on my options.

Do you play any other sports?
I do track and field in the spring.

born to dance: bobby hoock
When Bobby Hoock walked away from his first Irish dance lesson at 8 years old, he told his mom, “I think I was born to do this.” That was in 2007, and currently, he is busy rehearsing in London, hsports_Bobby-Hoockoping to earn an official spot on Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games tour.

It’s been quite the journey for the 17-year-old senior, who attended St. Mary’s High School when he resided in town. He got permission to finish his last semester online, which enables him to prepare for the professional tour. The fast pace of this style of dance is what captured Hoock’s interest. “I love how dancers can go from being very graceful to very intense in a matter of seconds,” he says.

When he was at the Meghan Tomo School of Irish Dance in St. Louis, he practiced three times a week and ran or cross-trained seven days a week, which included weight-lifting, stretching and yoga. He also was on the varsity cross country team all four years of high school. His commitment has paid off from the beginning. “My very first time at Regionals and Nationals in 2009, I qualified for the World Championships in Scotland, and I made it two more years after that,” he says. “I placed 28th overall at the World Championships last year in London.” That competition also was significant because it’s when he sent in an audition tape for the Lord of the Dance tour. “I heard I had been accepted for rehearsals right before Christmas,” he says.

His practice schedule changed dramatically with his new gig. “We’re rehearsing seven days a week up until the start of the tour,” Hoock says. “This is my first professional experience. The atmosphere with a large group of dancers is like a big family.” There are two different tours he can be selected for after rehearsals: One performs only in London, the other travels around Europe and South Africa. It’s always been a dream of his to dance with Michael Flatley, who will be involved with choreography and make special appearances. “No one has a guaranteed spot yet,” he says. “But once you’re in, you officially get hired by the company. I just want to keep performing.”

Pictured: John Jaeger