On a cool November afternoon, Michael Townsend sent his athletes out for a brisk run.
The group had 20 minutes to run from The Boathouse on the Savannah River to Jessye Norman Amphitheater. About a dozen teenage boys ran down Riverwalk Augusta, oars in hand.
A decade ago, there were about 200 high school-age rowers with the Augusta Rowing Club's junior program, but now the number has dwindled to between 30 and 40.
And that puzzles head coach George Fry.
Many colleges have added rowing programs, especially for females, and offer full scholarships to rowers.
"You think you'd see the numbers go up; it hasn't happened," Dr. Fry said.
Rowing is a year-round sport, and with the rowing club practicing on the Savannah River, it draws athletes from both the Augusta and Aiken areas.
Thomas Evans, an Aiken resident who is a junior at Augusta Preparatory Day School, moved to the area about a year ago from Connecticut. Around November through spring, he said he had to train inside on rowing equipment because the rivers were frozen.
"I enjoyed moving here," he said, because he could jump in a boat with friends in the winter.
The sport has a fall and spring season offering flexibility to athletes involved in other sports.
"Even if they do other sports, they can do the spring season," said Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Ro Ralph, one of the junior coaches. "It's a great workout for other sports ... It's one of the best all- body workouts."
For an individual who has never rowed, it's not a problem, the petty officer said.
"Here you can come, and you don't need to know anything," he said.
For more information about the Augusta Rowing Club, call 821-2875.
Reach Charmain Z. Brackett at email@example.com.