Originally created 10/31/06

Rower enjoys sport's challenge

When the word "sports" is mentioned, most people think of the big ones: hockey, baseball, basketball and football.

Yet there are a large number of other competitive sports. One is rowing, which Alex Merrill, 17, of Westminster Schools of Augusta, has participated in for more than two years.

"I was never that good at soccer, and baseball and everything else just didn't really click," he said. "One day my mom suggested rowing, and I tried it out. I stuck with it because I had to push myself to mental and physical extremes that I had never before reached, extremes that I think nothing else would push me to."

Alex practices four times a week for 2 hours each session, either rowing or training using weight machines. Sometimes he uses the "erg" (short for ergometer), a rowing simulator. The machine is the pivotal part of training, exercising the arms, back, legs and abs.

Not only do competitive rowers need to keep in the best possible condition to maintain their position in the boat but teams also are lauded with praise and medals for winning. Alex and his team, the Augusta Junior Rowing Club, have won six varsity medals (two bronze, one silver and three gold). He also won two gold medals for winning the South East Regional Championship.

There's more to rowing than just moving your boat ahead of everyone else's, he said.

"People get the wrong idea when I say I row," Alex said. "They think most of the muscles I work are in the back. It's actually the legs. It's not being stronger than the other team, but outlasting them that lets you win."

Mason Webb, 17, is a senior at Westminster Schools of Augusta.


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