The Student News Site of Center Grove High School


The Student News Site of Center Grove High School


The Student News Site of Center Grove High School


Senior commits to row at Michigan

Ava Mardis plans to switch from volleyball, softball to rowing in college
Ava Mardis
Ava Mardis poses inside the University of Michigan rowing facility during a visit to campus.

Over 8 million high schoolers across the country participate in athletics, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. A mere 7% will go on to participate at the collegiate level, with a minute 2% playing NCAA Division 1. For most athletes, signing to play at the collegiate level requires years and years of dedication to the sport in order to stand out among millions. 

But this afternoon, senior Ava Mardis signed to row at the University of Michigan, despite never participating in an official rowing competition or even rowing on the water.

“When I was in middle school, someone told me that I had the perfect body for rowing and that I should try it out sometime if I ended up quitting my other sports,” Mardis said. “It wasn’t until sophomore year that I actually started learning about rowing and realized that I had potential to be good at it.”

After finishing her volleyball career this past fall, Mardis decided to reach out to the rowing staff at Michigan. The staff also saw potential in her, so without ever seeing her participate in the sport, they asked her to be on the team. Their response was a dream come true for Mardis, who has been a fan of the Wolverines since she was young.

“I think what originally got me hooked as a kid was their softball program. As I became older, I was more attracted to their high level of academics that complement their athletics,” Mardis said. “They give their athletes many ways to help them succeed in the classroom allowing for school and sports to be more equal.”

After accepting her role on the 2024-25 team, she started training at the Indianapolis Rowing Center in Zionsville. Here, she participates in workouts six days a week with future collegiate rowers. She will get her first experience on the water in the spring of 2024. She said she has been enjoying her indoor experience with the sport so far.

“My favorite part, as of now, is how mental the sport is. Obviously rowing is the biggest team sport, and that is one of my favorite parts about it,” Mardis said. “But, getting to see yourself drop time on hard workouts because of how hard you mentally pushed yourself is so different from any other sport I’ve ever played.” 

Michigan checked all the boxes for Mardis, providing a culture where she can thrive. She said she loves the state of Michigan, a place where she and her mom Lucy have always wanted to live. The women’s rowing program is also elite, with eight Big Ten championships and eleven finishes in the NCAA top-5. 

“I’m looking forward to the training and coaching that I will be receiving as well as getting to be teammates with over 30 girls the minute I get there,” Mardis said. “I’m also excited to get a Michigan education and learn from some of the best professors in the world.”

Mardis has gone through hardships in her athletic career, including an ACL reconstruction surgery in December 2022. Through it all, she said she has learned many lessons that she will take with her to Ann Arbor this fall.

“Rowing is definitely something that in the moment, it’s the most challenging thing you could be doing,” Mardis said. “But, the most rewarding feeling is when you’re done and you see the improvement you have made.”


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