Originally created 11/09/99

Joining the crew

Competitive. Gratifying. Fun.

That's how some area teen-agers who participate in rowing describe the river sport.

"It does take a lot of work and dedication, but it's a whole lot of fun," said Mia Woods, 16, a junior at Davidson Fine Arts High School.

Mia, who has rowed for three years, is on the Varsity 8 Women's team of the Augusta Rowing Club's Junior Rowing Team.

More than 100 high school students from Richmond, Columbia and Aiken counties participate in the program, which has been around for about 10 years. The program is open to high school students.

Long a popular sport in the Northeast, rowing has grown in popularity among young people in the South.

Crew offers students the opportunity to participate in a team sport that's not offered by area high school athletic programs.

Teens who row say it's a sport that involves both individual ability and group effort.

"The teamwork in the sport is beyond any other sport -- if you don't have teamwork the boat's not going anywhere," said Jason Devlin, 17, a senior at Evans High School.

In the past, there were efforts to start rowing programs within local high schools, but the logistics proved too difficult and the program was consolidated.

"It'd be nice to have high school rowing programs because of the competition, but consolidating the team made the program more competitive," Jason said.

As it stands, the team has been successful regionally. The Varsity 8 Women's team won at last year's regionals.

Equipment for rowing includes racing shells that seat four to eight rowers, which cost $30,000 each. The junior rowers use shells and oars owned by the Augusta Rowing Club.

On an individual basis, rowing is a pretty expensive sport. The team attends up to 15 regattas a year, and the cost of such trips adds up, with airfare, hotel rooms and meals. Junior rowers pay $300 each season -- fall and spring -- which amounts to $600 annually. Dues cover travel, uniforms and coaching expenses.

The Rowing Club offers scholarships for students who cannot afford it.

Augusta's junior rowers have been busy practicing for Saturday's third annual Head of the South Rowing Regatta. The event is one of the fastest-growing regattas in the country, with more than 3,000 participants from 15 states expected.

Rachel Sellers, 17, an Evans High School junior, is coxswain for the Varsity women's boat. The coxswain steers the boat and serves as a secondary coach.

"During the races she's our eyes, our steering -- she keeps us going with our stroke rate and everything," Mia said.

"I kind of have to be their mother," Rachel joked.

Crew is becoming more available on the collegiate level -- especially for young women.

Mia and Rachel both plan to pursue rowing in college -- on scholarship, they hope. Rachel's older brother won a rowing scholarship to Princeton University.

People interested in rowing should know that it's pretty time-consuming. Practice is held for 2 1/2 hours daily except Sunday.

Training includes working with an "erg," or rowing machine, running for endurance and strength training with weights.

"It's hard work, but when you cross that finish line it really pays off," said Ginger Hamrick, 17, a senior at Richmond Academy.

Interested in finding out more about rowing? Check out the junior rowers during practice from 4 to 6 p.m. during the week or beginning at 8 a.m. Saturdays.

For more information, call the Augusta Rowing Club at 821-2875.

Reachj Margaret Weston at (706) 823-3340 or mweston@augustachronicle.com.

Race info

What: Head of the South Rowing Regatta

When: 8:15 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last race at 4:30) Saturday

Where: Augusta Riverfront Marina

FACT: Head races are rowing events that take place in the fall and early winter -- they serve to prepare crews for competition they'll face in sprint races in the spring and summer.

FACT: Head races are longer races -- about 5,000 meters compared to 1,000-2,000 meter sprint races.

FACT: Junior rowers are divided into four categories: Varsity boys and girls and Novice boys and girls. Novices have less than one year of experience.


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