Looking back on Francesca Raggi’s decorated rowing career

Riley Glenn

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the April 2 issue of The Daily Texan.

Winter Park High School in Winter Park, Florida, has a distinguished rowing program that convinced Francesca Raggi to entertain the sport in her freshman year.

“I knew at my high school, rowing was a successful high school program,” Raggi said. “Once I started rowing, I really fell in love with it. It’s the ultimate team sport.”

In rowing, the success of the team is dependent on the performance of all individuals working together, but Raggi quickly separated herself from the rest of the pack. The current Texas junior became the first athlete in Winter Park school history to make it onto the U.S. National Team.

Working with and competing against the top high school talent in the country, Raggi began to grasp the level of commitment and preparation she would need to succeed at the next level.

“It was crucial to my development as a rower,” Raggi said. “It prepares you for the intensity and volume that comes with college rowing. ”

Ever since she picked up the sport, Raggi dominated at Winter Park. But she quickly realized during her time as a member of both the 2017 and 2018 U.S. Rowing Junior National Teams, she was not the most obvious recruit in the country.

“It was very eye-opening to be surrounded by people who were faster than you,” Raggi said. “All these girls around me are going so fast. Maybe I can do that. It just served as another driving factor to get faster and work harder.”

And while some might have been faster and stronger, Raggi’s dedication as both an athlete and teammate earned her the 2018 Under 19 Female Rowing Athlete of the Year.

“The most special thing about that award is it’s not just based on speed or athleticism, but what kind of teammate you are, which I think is one of the most important aspects of rowing,” Raggi said.

Raggi is now competing against the same prospects she did nearly four years ago to avenge Texas’ 2019 NCAA Championship Runner-Up finish.

Francesca’s mother, Amy Raggi, is in constant awe of her daughter’s dedication to the sport she loves. Her daughter has not stopped competing since she decided to suit up for Winter Park.

“Since her sophomore year in high school, the girl never really had a break,” Amy said. “She went to summer camps, and that is quite a commitment for a teenager. I certainly as a teenager was never that committed to anything. She was always so focused and dedicated.”

Raggi’s never had a break, until her 2020 sophomore campaign was thwarted by the COVID-19 pandemic. For a relentless competitor, the extended break was abnormal and frustrating, but it allowed Raggi and her teammates to stew on their second place finish.

The Longhorns have worked incredibly hard to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks from derailing their mission once again, showing a remarkably low positivity rate, considering the amount of time they spend in close proximity.

“I think as the year has gone on, my team has handled COVID very well,” Raggi said. “We have had one positive case the entire year, which I think is impressive for a team of 60 women.”

And just like the high school prospects of the U.S. team, the Texas Longhorns are pushing each other so they have a chance to hold the NCAA Championship trophy.

“Our team dynamic is one of a kind,” Raggi said. “Everyone is so competitive and pushes each other so hard. Everyone’s first goal is for the team to win. Everyone is doing what they can to lead to team success.”