Rowing Club of the Woodlands Shows up in OKC
THE WOODLANDS, TX -- This weekend, in Oklahoma City, saw an amazing showing of Sportsmanship and Athletic prowess from the Youth of the Rowing Club of The Woodlands. The daring coaches, of the Club that bears the Township’s name, entered eleven boats in ten events at the Central Youth Championships for Rowing in the USA, after emerging from a Worldwide pandemic where due to official restrictions the athletes were instructed to row in single boats for months.
This bold move was not intended to get the athletes a participation medal but to get them into the Regional Finals. The boats had been selected painfully over the past several weeks as the athletes had to work hard for a seat in the boats that were to be entered. They all knew that a selection would mean some might not make the cut. And after those grueling weeks the team looked on with pride at the selected group and the boats, they were placed in.
The drive to Oklahoma City was not without its struggle as the parents drove with a trailer full of rowing shells through torrential rains on Friday to unload and rig the boats once they had arrived at the USRowing National High-Performance Center in Oklahoma City.
Crews from Chicago and as far away as California came to participate with the hope to qualify for the Nationals. Their shells being rigged by dedicated parents and a crew that would risk a long and arduous trip to Oklahoma because their regattas were canceled due to their state restrictions for COVID.
Once rigged, the young team had an hour before the sun slipped behind the horizon clothed in clouds. They treasured those few minutes to get on the water and to get a good feel of the course. The water was the usual chocolate brown littered with flotsam and jetsam and submerged tree limbs.
Several hundred feet out off the dock one of the boats returned gently hoping for the best after hearing a terrible crunch when their hull hit something just below the surface. A swift inspection revealed that, although in need of a cosmetic brush of paint, the submerged trunk had just kissed the hull rather violently. There was no breach. The team breathed a sigh of relief.
On Saturday, the team was anxious to get on the water. They checked and checked again the rigging and their oars. They walked the path to and from the tent erected for the club and down to the docks to get a good feel of the land and identify anything that might get in their way or trip them from making it into the finals.
One by one they rowed to the starting line and raced back to the finish line hoping that their timed race was good enough to get them past the other 25 clubs to win a coveted place in the finals. As the day went on the team started to see their hard work and dedication pay off as boat after boat qualified for finals. At the end of the day, all eleven entries had done what some had thought would be almost impossible…they all qualified for finals.
Giddy with nerves and excitement, the team had one last meeting in the lobby of the hotel before they turned in for the night. Most fell asleep before their heads hit the pillow others struggled with the adrenaline that still coursed through their veins and drifted off with the phantom sensations rocking them to sleep of being in a boat and rowing to the finish line.
Fog filled the streets in Oklahoma, on Sunday, and the river was blanketed in it. The team made their way to the tent grabbed a cup of coffee that one of the parents had brought from the local mermaid-endorsed coffee shop, a granola bar, and stretched in preparation for the races.
Once again, they had to row out to the starting line over 2000 meters downriver but today, they had an additional ten knots of wind, fighting against them.
With a blast from an air horn at the finish line the teams waiting at the starting line knew they were released to race and race they did. The boats leapt forward and with each stroke, they made their way against the wind and the water that only yesterday had opened for them with ease but today seemed to cling to the hull of their boats like sweet molasses.
They had a strategy. As the other boats pulled away, they knew they had to keep a clear mind and remember what their coaches had told them “Trust the technique, stay consistent and at the 500-meter mark give it 110%”. Everything in their body was telling them to row harder, to catch up, and to pass, but they kept their resolve and remembered the disciple in rowing. This would be a mind game just as much as it would be a physical one.
The day rolled on and after the last boat crossed the finish line they all stood together proud that 9 boats received medals, and six boats would go to the Youth National Regatta in Sarasota in June.