Originally created 06/03/04

Rowers seek national title



The rowing bug bit Alexis Balbag after she saw a flier during orientation at John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School.

Alaina Kemp sought a sporting adventure after burning out in basketball.

Fast forward two years later and the two are now part of a 10-person contingent from the Augusta Junior Rowing Club leaving today to compete in the USRowing Youth Invitational in Cincinnati. The event runs Friday through Sunday.

The club is sending two teams and two individuals to compete. The participating rowers include: men's varsity quad (Reese Hamilton, Tyler Disk, Ryan Reynolds, Brett Shealy), women's varsity quad (Alaina Kemp, Vanessa Kemp, Meagan Matta, Balbag), men's single (A.J. Doak) and women's single (Casey Fairbanks). Fairbanks recently obtained a full scholarship to Notre Dame.

The Augusta Junior Rowers qualified for the national competition by finishing second at the Southeastern Regional Championship, on May 8, in Oak Ridge, Tenn. The men's novice 8 team of Luis Pollock, Michael Packard, Jonathan Carlson, Phillip Hill, Nick Hodor, Lee Ethridge, Chris Kemp, Michael Thomason also won their event and would have qualified for the event. But the USRowing organization doesn't allow novice teams to participate in the national event. And besides, it'd be too expensive to send another boat.

"It costs a lot of money and we're a small group," Augusta Junior Rowing Club president Rita Hamilton said.

The women's quad won its regional meet in a blowout to advance to the nationals. Last year as a novice team, the squad finished third in the regionals.

"It's an honor for us to be able to go," Vanessa Kemp said.

The women's quad will compete against 12 other teams in two heats. The top six teams advance to the championship, or grand, finals. The bottom six move to the "petite" finals.

"I expect good competition," Alaina Kemp said. "I think we can do very well."

The men's team is trying to concentrate on doing well in its event. The team could actually participate in four events, coach Anna Pepin said, but she doesn't want to spread her team thin.

"We've done incredibly well all season," she said. "It's going to be very hard. It's going to be a challenge."

SOCCER: Tom Norton has joined the Augusta Arsenal Soccer Club as full-time technical director. Norton coached for 17 years at Georgia Southern University, leading the men's team before starting the women's program.

Reach Chris Gay at (706) 868-1222 or chris.gay@augustachronicle.com.