ST. CHARLES – Jack Kirtley's ascension to premier rowing heights is no tall tale.
Kirtley, a Marmion senior from St. Charles who took up rowing just 16 months ago, was sitting in his statistics class when he learned he etched his name in the American and world record books for the 17-18 year old male division.
The 7-footer indoor-rowed 2,000 meters in six minutes, 14.1 seconds on the ergometer, an indoor rowing machine, at practice on Jan. 9. Now verified by Concept 2, Kirtley broke both the American and world records.
There is a bluetooth connection on the rowing machine's monitor that can be verified, and a picture of the time was taken as well.
Kirtley is the first member of the 25-person St. Charles Rowing Club, around since 2012-13, to break an American or world record. He learned he broke the American record shortly following his erg session, but it took several text messages from his coach to learn he broke the world mark as well.
"Everything went blank, and I was just completely astonished that I actually broke the world record," Kirtley said.
The American record had been on Kirtley's radar, having nearly bested it in December, but fell just a few seconds short.
"The kid was born to row. There's no question about it," STC Rowing Club coach Chris Meldrum said.
Kirtley decided to forego the rest of his high school basketball career looking for new athletic avenues during the summer of his junior year. His best friend, Matt Koebel, encouraged him to give rowing a try. One month after joining, Kirtley was hooked.
Kirtley was usually placed in the stern of the team boat for his first year. Eventually he transitioned to single-seated boats due to his size and strength capability compared to the rest of the team.
"He's a great team leader, and he's just an all-around great athlete kid," Meldrum said. "He's coachable, and he's passionate, and he's committed. Those are the trifecta of being a good athlete."
Kirtley is now committed at the University of Washington for rowing and has a long-term goal of reaching the Olympics. Kirtley doesn't have any particular rowers he looks up to, but keeps tabs on those similar to his age.
"It motivates me to do better and work hard every single day," Kirtley said. "So, that one day, I can be as good as them hopefully."
In the near future, Kirtley will be heading to Boston for his second trip at the C. R. A. S. H. - B Sprints – the world indoor rowing championship on Feb. 25. Kirtley will compete on a single-seat erg. Last year, he took 26th in the junior men heavyweight division, but hopes to place within the top five this time around.
The Club is recruiting new high school-aged members. If they're interested, contact Meldrum at: email@example.com