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Pascack Hills grad Mackenzie Evans excels in rowing at Rutgers University

Growing up Mackenzie Evans always played sports whether it was basketball, soccer and baseball. Since Evans’ father Ted coached football and basketball, her desire to play sports was in the environment around her as well.

“I have a twin brother(Matthew) and growing up we were very competitive with each other when it came to sports. He started playing basketball, my Dad was a coach and I knew I wanted to play. Playing against my brother since I was eight years old, one on one in the driveway every single day where it ended up with someone in tears or hurt”


At Woodcliff Lake Middle School Evans played basketball and volleyball. At Pascack Hills High School is where she flourished both on and off the court as a four-year member of the basketball and volleyball teams, two-year starter for basketball and three-year starter for volleyball and all-league honorable mention in both sports as a junior while having her Dad coach her the last two years. In her senior year is where Evans flourished captaining both squads, leading volleyball to an undefeated championship season and being named to the second-team all-league. On the academic front, she was an honor student.


“I learned how to be competitive at Pascack Hills High School and our teams’ were not the best and I was not the best player but as a senior and captain of the team always tried to set a good example for the underclassmen in trying to do the right thing and what the varsity coaches expected out of the players,”


“Cross training is so important for athletes especially at the high school level because you become more versatile and teaching your muscles different things. Volleyball helped me with basketball in getting rebounds and quick thinking. You don’t know what you are good at and developing a sense of competition all year round and when you go into championship season you are used to it and don’t get scared”

“Academically I always tried hard in school and my parents’ made sure I take school seriously before sports and my hard work paid off. Working for something, doing your best and seeing how it pays off is really cool. My parents’ played a huge role in my athletic career, we had one rule growing up that you had to finish the season and if you did not want to do the sport the next season you didn’t have to and something to do this day I still think about and give it my all and 100 percent”

Deciding to attend Rutgers University, Evans wanted to try a new challenge not only majoring in communications but also joining the rowing team. “Rowing is not that popular in North Jersey, didn’t know what it was in high school and when I committed to Rutgers I wanted to be a part of something that made it small and joining rowing a good way to do that. To see athletes from New Jersey and Rutgers was very cool especially from Bergen County awesome,”


“70 girls on the team and everywhere I went I knew someone on the team. My freshman year learning what rowing is like and how hard it is. Most of my teammates were doing it for the first time. “Being in a sport that is different and not what everyone is doing and you have to turn things down when you have to practice”


“Rowing is definitely the hardest sport mentally and physically I ever done since playing basketball and volleyball in high school. Waking up at 6 in the morning, going to the boathouse and training for two hours. Eating lunch in the afternoon then going to lift with our coach on the rowing machine. Two practice sessions every day except for Sunday and Thursday mornings. Very demanding, not everyone can do it and people quit mid-season”


Just when things were starting to turn the corner, more changes were in store with a new coaching staff. Evans gives credit to head Coach Justin Price for bringing in a new attitude and direction. “Our coaching staff was new last year and did not know what to expect. We knew our program needed a change because we were losing and morale was very low”


“When the new coaches came in they were honestly the best I ever had besides my Dad. They had big goals for our team and knew what it took to achieve them. Our new coach Justin Price said it’s not what we got but how we do it meaning our training program does not determine our success but more how we approach the training with the right attitude and work ethic and since day one he wrote down May 19thbecause that is the day of the Big Ten Conference(Rowing Championships) and every day focused our training for that day”


“When we would come to the end of the workout and it was really tough and I wanted to quit or give up I would think of May 19thand how I wanted to feel on that day and I knew I gave it everything I had”


Part of the Varsity Four boat, Evans and the rest of her Scarlet Knights teammates finished fourth in the Big Ten Championships, the best in program history.  They ranked 11that the 2019 NCAA Championships and qualified for the first time since 2001. She enjoyed success in athletics but also enjoyed it academically last year, as Evans earned All-Academic Big 10 and Big Ten Distinguished Scholar Award.


“Varsity Four is very different from than being in an eight with less people, technique is a very big thing and little changes affect the boat, Evans said. Everyone wanted to do well and knew what it took to click with the three other girls in the boat and rocked on that stage”


“This year has been pretty crazy, my freshman year none of this would be imaginable for me and came a long way since then. The highest point reaching the Big Ten and qualifying for the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2001 and we put a lot of hard work in every single day and definitely earned everything that came our way. My teammates are my best friends and definitely would not love the sport if they were not around. The strongest women I have ever seen in my life. Seeing our team at the its worst and then at best a really cool way to end my career”


“You learn so many lessons in sports, so transferable in life and makes real life problems so much easier to deal with. At such a young age to have a better grasp of the world, how to deal with conflict and be on a team. Following your dreams, wanting to be the best you can and nothing more bad ass than being a tough, smart and strong”


Evans goes back to the support she has received from her parents and grandmother on her Mom’s side of the family for her success in athletics in high school and college. “My Mom(Terri) is the most supportive person ever, waking me up at 6:30 a.m. for practice and making sure I would be awake and if I overslept. She always made me feel the best”


“Since my Dad has that successful sports background, he is very honest with me so it’s nice to have that positivity and constructive feedback. I remember growing up my Dad coached me and never gave me special treatment or the easy way out and sometimes throwing me out of practice and benching me during games or screaming in my face. Him being a football coach and athlete in college, he is my hero and seeing how successful he is in athletics really inspired me to do well and be like him. Having that at such a young age made me reflect as an athlete and how I can improve and do better and wouldn’t be able to do anything without them”


“My grandma, everyone in town knows her as “Nanny” has been a huge part of my athletic career as well, she has come to every single game/match/race of mine since I was kid. She doesn’t know much about sports but is and has always been the loudest one cheering even at her old age”


Now Evans will take her experience and talent up to Boston working for Hydrow. “I chose communications because I had no idea what I wanted to do and felt is was broad enough and like to write. A coach from Hydro reached out to my coach. Now I’m going to be a trainer where I will make workouts and teach people how to row”


“Rowing is really taking off, so many opportunities and scholarships as you as you like to be competitive, mentally competitive and be part of a team. You can be on a rowing team at the collegiate level but be able to put up with the demands of the sport. Everyone knows someone that has rowed and how I got my job”

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Sunil Sunder Raj

Since July of 2014 Sunil Sunder Raj has been with In The Zone. Sunil has experience covering minor league baseball, high school and college sports. A beat writer for the Rockland Boulders for six years, Ramapo College men’s basketball for four years, NJIT men’s basketball and Seton Hall women’s basketball. Now focusing on feature articles about athletes, coaches and sports media professionals. A graduate of Ramapo College of New Jersey with a bachelor of arts degree in journalism.
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