Shawnee Mission East freshman, rookie rowers find early success at Sunflower State Games Regatta

By Chris Heady

Winning rowers, from left, Stella Braly, Katie Andrews of Kansas City, Mo., Olivia Myers (Shawnee Mission East junior) and Ellie Braly.
Winning rowers, from left, Stella Braly, Katie Andrews of Kansas City, Mo., Olivia Myers (Shawnee Mission East junior) and Ellie Braly.

It was a family joke for the Bralys, the idea of getting up at 5:30 a.m. to watch a rowing race on Wyandotte Lake. Linda Braly’s husband had heard there was a race happening and the two thought it’d be fun to go watch as a family.

So she woke up her 14-year-old twin daughters and lugged their half-asleep bodies to the lake, not knowing when the race was over that morning that the two of them would want to take up the sport.

Now, a year later, Stella and Ellie, incoming Shawnee Mission East freshmen, are decorated rowers after winning two events at the Sunflower State Games Regatta in Topeka Saturday. The duo, along with fellow Shawnee Mission East junior Olivia Myers, won the women’s juniors quad and women’s juniors 4+, and were also part of a women’s 8 that took first place.

The sisters picked up the sport just last summer and have been rowing year-round since then, competing in races all over the Midwest including Oklahoma City, and Wichita.

The once reluctant to get up teens are now awake at 4:30 every morning to practice out at Wyandotte Lake.

“They really enjoy it,” Linda said, who added that Stella and Ellie are two of some 20 teens that are apart of the junior team.

When the family was in Oklahoma City and the daughters competed for the regional championships, they also stopped by the olympic training center, somewhere Stella and Ellie wouldn’t mind practicing in down the road. Their goal is the olympics, but they two will settle for now with scholarships to schools like KU or K-State, who offer free tuition and books for rowers.

The Braly sisters will compete again in September in Des Moines and will travel to Oklahoma City again in October.

“It really is exciting (watching them),” Linda said. “And I am proud of them.”