Coed, independent, PK3-12th grade school in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Meet Julianna Wright

It's 3:30pm, the last bell of the school day rings, dismissing students from their classes for the afternoon. Shorecrest senior Julianna Wright makes a mad dash for her car, driving to Tampa for crew practice. She laughs, "Every afternoon you see me run from the parking lot, do a quick change, and then go hop in a boat. I'm sure it's kind of funny to watch!"

Julianna first got interested in rowing in 2012 while watching the London Olympics. "At that point, I was very into soccer. I played defense--I wasn't that fast, but I was strong and aggressive on the field." Because of her passion for soccer, Julianna was very excited to watch the US soccer team compete in London. While watching the soccer game, a preview of rowing flashed across the screen. "I wondered, 'Who the heck rows? That sounds so dumb--there are motorboats for that!'" But after watching the US team compete, she knew she had to try the sport. "I thought, 'It's actually kind of cool that you have these eight women in a boat and they're doing this one thing together.' When my mom came home that day, I told her that I really wanted to try it out." And the rest is history!

At five feet, four inches, Julianna is a bit on the short side for a rower. When asked about this, she laughs, "I started rowing when I was twelve, and we were all anticipating that I would grow a little bit more--I was on track to--but I didn't. I kind of just stopped growing." She doesn't let that stop her, though. "It is kind of fun to be the runt on the team!"

And her small stature gave her a competitive edge this spring. Julianna primarily races in a boat with seven other rowers, but this spring she decided she wanted to try to compete in the Florida all-state competition as a single. There are two classifications for singles--heavyweight (over 130 pounds) or lightweight (130 pounds or under). "Most rowers are tall and muscular, and I've embraced heavyweight all four years, even though I only weigh 125 pounds, but for my single race, I really wanted to race people in my weight class."
Because of her petite size, Julianna didn't have to train or cut calories to meet the weight requirements. However, her height does have its drawbacks. "I do have to row a lot faster to compete with these girls with much longer strokes."

But boy did Julianna compete! The last race of her high school career was the Florida Scholastic Rowing Championships, which were held in Sarasota at Nathan Benderson Park, where the World Rowing Championships were held last August. "The final race was pretty awesome--I was first off the line. I always try to not have to play catch up, but in that race [a 1500 meter distance], I was in the lead from the first 250 meters. I just kept expanding on my lead, and I finished about eight boat lengths in front of second place. It was a pretty incredible feeling."

What do Julianna's parents think about her dedication to rowing? "I think they wish it didn't cost that much!" she laughs. "They probably would have enjoyed me playing high school soccer for free, instead of going down this path. But my parents are definitely a huge part of my success."

Rowing will continue to be a big part of Julianna's life this fall, when she rows Varsity Crew for Wellesley College, just outside Boston. "If it weren't for my parents I'm sure I wouldn't be ready to take this next step. I just appreciate them sacrificing so much for me to be able to do what I love to do."

Julianna has always had strong supporters in her parents. She has always had a passion for learning and in Middle School, Julianna, who was attending a school in Tampa at the time, told her parents "Alright my school isn't working--I'm just not getting the education that I want at my school. I would really like to check out Shorecrest in St. Pete." They supported her as she came to Shorecrest for a visit and shadowed for a day. "I remember coming home and telling them "I NEED to go to that school. I'll be so much smarter. And they said 'Okay. Let's do it. We'll figure it out.' I am so grateful that they supported me coming here!"

The drive from Tampa may be longer than some of her friends' commutes, but Julianna says she has enjoyed it. "I really love my time in the car with my brother Ethan who is in sixth grade at Shorecrest this year." She smiles as she talks about their daily morning commute across Tampa Bay. "We like to listen to talk radio together! I'm so going to miss those drives."
What else will she miss about Shorecrest? "I've loved my classes here so much!" she says. My US History and Comparative Government classes with Mr. Wahlgren were just fantastic. In those classes I definitely learned how to study massive amounts of information. And two hours of Mr. Wahlgren a day is exactly what everyone needs in their life. His dry humor gets me every time."

While Julianna plans to study Economics at Wellesley, she plans to minor in Art History. "I discovered my love for Art History because of Ms. G [art teacher, Mrs. Gaglio]. She's kind of like my mom on campus, but don't tell her I said that. She'd probably say, 'I'm not old enough to be your mom!'" she laughs. "She's just made this year especially fun. She has presented art in a way that I've never looked at it before."

Julianna is definitely sad to leave her friends and teachers behind, but she feels ready to take this next step. What is she looking forward to most next fall? "I'm really hoping I get to race in the Head of the Charles," she says. The iconic regatta held each year in Boston is the ultimate race for many rowers. "It's about a three mile race, and there's seven bridges throughout the course. It's one of the hardest races in the world because the turns in the Charles River are pretty risky when you have boats right next to you."

She knows if she has the chance to be part of the race her Shorecrest friends will be supporting her. "My friends and I are already making plans to see each other in October! If I'm racing, they want to be right there watching."

Julianna attributes her drive - both as a competitor on the water and in the classroom - to her parents. "My parents are both first-generation college graduates," she explains. "For most of my young childhood, I watched my Dad working on his master's degree and then his law degree, and I watched my mom study for her medical boards." Watching her parents' dedication to education was pretty inspiring for Julianna. "Because I saw my parents' commitment to education, it made me set a very high bar for myself. I can't be the underachiever!"

So where does Julianna see herself in ten years? "I really want to end up in New York City," she explains. "I can see myself working in the financial district, but part of me thinks I could end up at Sotheby's or Christie's selling art. We'll just have to see!" Whatever path she chooses, Julianna's passion and drive to succeed will surely take her far.
    • How to win at Brain Bowl... stack your team with smarties like Julianna!

      How to win at Brain Bowl... stack your team with smarties like Julianna!

Shorecrest Preparatory School

5101 First Street Northeast
St Petersburg, FL 33703
Phone: (727) 522-2111  |  Fax: (727) 527-4191
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Shorecrest Preparatory School is a private, non-sectarian, coeducational, college preparatory day school for students preschool through high school, located in St. Petersburg, Florida.