An area team qualified four boats for the highest competition in youth rowing.
The Augusta Rowing Club will send the four teams to the USRowing Youth National Championships from Friday through Sunday in Oak Ridge, Tenn.
The club is sending two lightweight doubles teams for both boys and girls, one varsity boys doubles team and one varsity girls single.
The four boats qualified for the national championship by finishing third in each event at the Southeast Youth Championship in Sarasota, Fla., on May 12-13. The national championship consists of qualifiers from seven different districts across the country.
The boys lightweight has a maximum weight of 160 pounds, while the girls lightweight limit is 130 pounds. Coach Michael Cobb said his rowers are relatively small compared to teams they will face at the championship. His lightweight girls average 109 pounds, which is below the national average, and he has just one boy over 6 feet tall.
However, Cobb said his teams have trained hard and have experience. The rowing club sent three boats to nationals last year, with the girls doubles team finishing ninth and the boys doubles finishing 13th. Of his entire team, only two have not been to the national championship, and it will be the third trip for his girls single, Hayley Prescott.
“There’s a fear factor for your first time, but they adapt well,” Cobb said. “A lot of time and effort has been put into this, and the practices have been grueling.”
Cobb said the competition is fierce among teams at the national championship, with some rowers competing as future Junior National team members, and college and Olympic rowers. The strongest teams are found in the most powerful regions, such as the Northeast, Midwest and West Coast.
However, despite the Southeast’s rowing programs being relatively new, Cobb said his rowers have received exposure and attention from college coaches.
“A lot of coaches are looking at our kids, calling and making offers,” he said. “We’ve had some success over the years with getting kids scholarships.”
Despite being smaller than the average team making the trip to nationals, Cobb has confidence that his boats can make the final. A combination of experience and training could make it possible for the Augusta youth rowers.
“The components are there,” Cobb said. “I feel like we have a pretty good shot. If we do what we can do, they all have a good chance.”