LANGLEY -- Westside senior Ashlynn Young would watch the rowers slide along the Savannah River with strength and grace from her grandparents' living room along the shoreline.
What's this sport? she thought to herself.
Looks like something that might be fun. Good exercise. How do you get involved?
A few years later, Young is among the stalwarts of a burgeoning Augusta Rowing Club, helping them win the women's varsity eights Saturday at the Southeastern Regional Youth Rowing Regatta at Langley Pond.
Rowing, and the intense training that accompanies it, is no longer a lark to Young. She'll attend Murray State University on a rowing scholarship this fall, as she becomes one of the Racers' first recruits to build their program.
And with her team's win Saturday, they'll advance to the junior national rowing championships in Cincinnati in June.
Three Augusta Junior Rowing Club crews in addition to the varsity eights also advanced. They were the women's lightweight eights, the men's lightweight eights and the men's quad. One Augusta Rowing Club crew, the men's double, also advanced to the national event.
"I never thought I could turn this into a college opportunity," said Young, 18, who wrote her scholarship essay on Title IX and the opportunities it allows for rowing. "This sport is a growing one, and I'm coming in at the right time."
College scholarships for rowing are increasing as schools add the sport at the varsity level. Richmond Academy's Ginger Hamrick, on Augusta's lightweight eight boat that finished second to a team from Chattanooga, Tenn., is off to rowing-rich Wisconsin next fall.
Young and Hamrick were among the 600 high school students from 13 states who competed along the pond's 2000-meter course Saturday in 22 events. Thirteen of the events were national qualifiers.
Of the 18 crews participating, McCallie/Girls Prep School finished first, followed by Orlando Junior Rowing Club in second place. McCallie/Girls Prep School also finished first in the novice division.
Brian Sanders, director of the Aiken County Parks and Recreation Department, said there's a push among the Midland Valley Chamber of Commerce to start a consolidated Aiken County high schools rowing team by the next school year.
"What I'd like to see is every high school in Aiken County having its own rowing team," Sanders said. "We've certainly got the facilities, now we need to generate the interest and show off this sport's benefits."
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