Canby Rower Paddles through Adversity to Earn Scholarship at Michigan State

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When Bella Short first started rowing, a scholarship offer was the furthest thing from her mind.

Once a three-sport athlete in soccer, basketball and softball, Short was relearning to read, walk and talk after suffering a severe concussion while playing for the Canby Rebels in seventh grade.

But her doctors said physical activity — of the strictly non-contact variety — was important to her recovery, and she was inspired to try her hands at sculling after her mother started reading aloud The Boys in the Boat, a nonfiction story of the American Olympic rowing team’s triumph in Nazi Germany, while she was still in the hospital.

Photos courtesy Jessica Short.

Once she started rowing, she never stopped. After taking rowing camps between her seventh and eighth-grade years, Short committed to a rowing team.

“Rowing became the avenue for me to feeling normal again and giving me hope that I could overcome the brain injury,” Short told the Current. “There is a deep connection that happens when I feel the water under the boat and as I move the oar through the water.”

Short’s love for the sport has translated into stunning results. In 2019, Short took home first-place honors in the Northwest Youth Regional Club Championship in Vancouver Lake, Wash., which led to her representing the Northwest Region team in the USRowing Youth Regional Challenge in Florida.

Photos courtesy Jessica Short.

After Covid cancellations in 2020, both the competitions and Short came back hungry. On Sunday, Nov. 21, Bella competed in a 5K race around Mission Bay in the San Diego Fall Classic, where her team of eight girls placed 11th.

She’s also fresh off of an Oregon State Championship at the 2021 edition of the Northwest Youth Regional Club Championship, once again held in Vancouver Lake.

Short’s laundry list of rowing accomplishments eventually led to scholarship offers. The Canby senior was a sought-after prospect and received offers from top schools such as Rutgers, Washington State, Fordham and Cornell.

Photos courtesy Jessica Short.

But after receiving a handwritten Christmas note from Michigan State assistant coach Egan Berne and a campus trip in 2020, Short knew she was destined to be a Spartan.

“When I went the first weekend of June to MSU, I met the all-female coaching staff and they were awesome,” said Short. “I couldn’t picture myself going to school anywhere else.”

Short, who also plans to major in chemistry at Michigan State, credits her family with helping her accomplish her dream of college rowing.

Photos courtesy Jessica Short.

“Before I got my driver license, my mom would drive me to practice downtown 50 miles roundtrip every day,” said Short. “My parents attend and support me at every regatta.”

After traveling with her family and team to compete in Wisconsin, Florida, California, Bella’s next goal is for an Olympic appearance in 2028. What started as a rehab exercise has transformed her life. Once a girl who needed help walking and talking, now Bella Short is a “rower who loves talking about rowing.”

And if her awards and accomplishments she anything, she’s a darn good rower, too.

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