LAKEWOOD RANCH — A gentle calm began to wash over Wendy Reuss, as she sat smiling up at the sight.
The Lakewood Ranch High alumna and Roger Williams University freshman sat motionless in the middle of the lake staring up in awe at the snowflakes filtering down all around her. It was the first time Reuss had been out on the water in the snow, and for 10 minutes she was completely at peace.
But, soon, reality began to set in, pulling Reuss out of her reverie.
“For the first 10 minutes I just looked up in the sky and took it all in,” Reuss said. “Once the cool factor wore off, then it was just cold.”
The image is cemented in Reuss’ mind — one of the many firsts she has experienced in her first season sailing on the Hawks’ nationally ranked varsity sailing team.
“College sailing is a whole level up from what I had been doing,” Reuss said. “It’s a really cool experience to be part of a team. It’s a whole new environment.”
But, although her first collegiate regatta and practice in the snow are some of Reuss’ favorite memories, there’s one memory the young sailor will carry with her for a lifetime.
On May 17, Reuss was named the fourth annual Florida Women’s Sailing Association Young Woman Sailor of the Year during the organization’s annual meeting in Tampa.
Reuss, who was nominated by five of the women’s sailing groups in Florida, received a $1,000 honorarium and trophy. Reuss completed a nomination form, which included her sailing resumé and an essay on her goals for sailing. She learned she had won the award about a month ago .
“It was an exciting moment to hear I had won the award,” Reuss said. “I was really honored to be recognized by all of those women’s sailing groups, and then when I got the award I was so happy and honored.”
Reuss began sailing as a child with her grandfather, who owned a lake house in New Hampshire. Reuss, the youngest of her siblings and cousins, would spend hours on the water. By the time she was 7, Reuss was ready to tackle sailing alone; but her grandpa always remained nearby.
“My grandpa was always on a boat nearby with a megaphone telling me what to do,” Reuss said. “I have always enjoyed it. I have a lot of cousins, and he tried to get all of them to sail; but I’m the only one to stick with it. I’m the youngest, so he was more patient with me.”
Reuss began sailing competitively about seven years ago after her family moved to Florida from Colorado. Reuss’ mom, Nanette, was a part of the Luffing Lassies, an organization of women sailors who are members of the Sarasota Sailing Squadron, and she soon began racing with the group.
Reuss watched what her mom was doing and shortly thereafter she decided to join the Sarasota Youth Sailing Program.
“Being around there and seeing everyone got me wondering what it was all about,” Reuss said. “Sailing always has been in my family, so I decided to join the race team and see what it was about.”
Reuss sailed with the Sarasota Youth Sailing Program, through which she learned to sail with the laser racing team. She then went on to earn her U.S. Sailing Level 1 and U.S. Sailing Level 2 racing certifications, which allowed her to teach children and adults how to sail.
“I got to share my love of sailing,” Reuss said. “I just like the competition. It’s a lot of fun; the feeling of being in control of the sail. The feeling of being on the water — there’s a lot to like about it.”
This past year, Reuss enjoyed her first season sailing with Roger Williams University. Reuss, who is studying business marketing, recently helped her teammates train for the Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association National Championships May 30 through June 8, in Texas.
With only a limited number of boats competing, Reuss won’t be attending the national championships, but the lessons she learned while helping her team train to defend its national title proved to be invaluable.
“My coach only invited a few people to go, so it was exciting for me as a freshman to be able to help my team,” Reuss said.
Reuss will spend the summer completing a marketing and public relations internship for the Chicago Match Racing Center before returning to Rhode Island to begin her sophomore year sailing with the Hawks.
“I’m really excited because match racing is in the Olympics now and maybe one day I‘ll be able to try to do it in the Olympics,” Reuss said. “Right now, though, I’m just doing whatever I can to help my team and improve myself.”
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].