Wilmette, Sports

From Trevians to Olympians: Two New Trier alumni will be rowing for Team USA in the 2024 Olympics

Eight years ago, Grace Joyce and Peter Chatain rowed in the North Shore Canal for New Trier Rowing. In July, they will row in Lac de Vaires-sur-Marne for Team USA.

The New Trier alumni secured their Olympic spots during the 2024 World Rowing Final Olympic & Paralympic Qualification Regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland, on May 21. Joyce, class of 2016, is a member of the women’s quadruple sculls boat. Chatain, class of 2018, will row as a member of the men’s eight. 

The qualification regatta was Joyce’s and Chatain’s last opportunity to qualify for the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

The event began with a preliminary race to identify which lanes each boat would occupy for the final. Chatain said the preliminary race is a good measuring stick for how your boat will perform in the final. During that race, the U.S. men’s eight finished first, coming in 3.17 seconds before the Canadian boat. 

“Going into the actual final race I think there are a bit more nerves, because it’s been years and years of training, and if we don’t race to the best of our ability over the next five minutes, then that can all go down the drain,” Chatain said.

As a testament to the years of hard work, the boat finished in just 5 minutes 35.97 seconds. They clinched Olympic qualification by coming in first with a 3.55-second lead over Italy.

“I was really just focused on what I needed to do to make sure I was executing the best race,” Chatain said about his nerves leading up to the race. “I try not to think too much about the importance of it because that doesn’t really have much of an impact on how I’m gonna perform.”

Chatain rowing with the U.S. national team. | Photo from U.S Rowing

The women’s quadruple sculls boat saw similar success.

Joyce and the team finished first in the preliminary race with just an 0.18-second lead over the Ukrainian boat. The final race mirrored that success, finishing in 6:28.04, coming in first place again. 

Joyce said that when it comes to rowing the Olympic cycle began in January. All the Olympic hopefuls from the national teams head to Sarasota, Florida, to race as individuals, and the best performers get seeded for selection and then divided into boats.

The 2024 qualification regatta was the first time the women’s quadruple sculls boat had raced together. 

“Going into this regatta, we had never raced before,” Joyce said. “All these other boats that we are competing against had raced a World Cup or European Championships, so we know where everyone was seeded but us. We were not really sure where we were gonna fall.” 

Chatain started rowing in eighth grade. As a freshman, he joined New Trier boys rowing and said he narrowly made the team.

By his sophomore year, rowing became more than an extracurricular activity, and he began pursuing a path to row in college. After graduating from New Trier, he left for Palo Alto and Stanford University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in 2022 and master’s in 2023. 

“I think I owe a lot to New Trier,” Chatain said. “I think Nate Kelp-Lenane, the head coach of New Trier (boys), really focused on developing athletes and developing the whole athlete, and I think that paid a lot of dividends when going to college.” 

Joyce (far right) alongside her women’s quadruple sculls teammates after qualifying in Lucerne, Switzerland. | Photo by Row2k

Inspired by her sister, Abby, Joyce started rowing her freshman year with the New Trier girls team. She worked with coaches Gigi Johnson, Sandy Culver and Rose Marchuk, whom she credits for propelling her forward.

The former Northfield resident went on to row at the University of Wisconsin and graduated in 2020. She continued to row on the senior national team and Pan-American team in 2023. 

Both rowers have been members of national teams for several years. Chatain joined the junior national team in 2017, and Joyce joined the under 23 national team in 2018. Having been on so many teams and worked with so many coaches, joining a new roster — the Olympic roster — still brings a new level of excitement.

“I have been a part of a bunch of different teams, and the Olympic team is pretty unreal,” Joyce said. “Meg Musnicki, she’s a four-time Olympian, and she’s giving me advice and instilling wisdom. There’s a lot to learn in the boat but also from the team.”

The two were only in high school together for a short time. Chatain shared that Joyce’s younger brother, Dennis Joyce, used to drive him to practice.

Both appreciate having a familiar face nearby, especially when across seas.

“My parents couldn’t go to Switzerland,” Joyce said. “But we finish the race, and we are on the podium, and Peter’s mom is screaming and FaceTiming my mom. It is so awesome to have him here.” 

The next month consists mostly of training. Both will head to Italy at the beginning of July to continue training. The Olympics opening ceremony will be held on July 26, and rowing and sculling races will begin on July 27.

Joyce and Chatain appreciate all the support they have received thus far and look forward to continuing the celebrations. 

“I think if people wanna tune in and watch, that would be awesome,” Joyce said. “It should be a celebration. … It’s just so nice to see that other people can share what I’m doing right now.”

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