THUNDER BAY -- Kathleen Roulston is quickly becoming a veteran on the local rowing scene.
Roulston, 17, is entering her fourth year as a competitive rower and she knows she is in a position of leadership with a group that is welcoming many new faces in a sport that is reliant upon chemistry.
“I’m one of the more experienced ones,” she said.
“It’s a great teamwork sport. You build teamwork and relationships with the people you row with and it shows you perseverance.”
Locally the sport has been seeing dwindling participation after the heydays of 30 to 40 years ago where the Thunder Bay Rowing Club, which was founded in 1904, was a continual producer of international calibre athletes and teams.
Terry Hamilton, vice-president of the Thunder Bay Rowing Club, said the group has put an increased emphasis on growing its membership at the youngest ranks.
“We have far more young athletes at the club and that’s become one of our focuses,” Hamilton said.
The club held their annual Canada Day Rowing Regatta on the water at the Kaministiquia River Heritage Park, featuring local rowers as well as three teams from Minnesota who are all in the early stages of their seasons.
The regatta marked the club’s first race action of the season.
Hamilton said Saturday’s regatta is designed to welcome the novices to the sport and let them get their paddles wet.
“This is the first opportunity for many of these kids to get out and race and really get into the swing of things,” Hamilton said. “For some of them it’s their first race of the year, for some of them it’s the first race they’ve ever had in rowing.”
The teams travelling from Duluth, Long Lake and St. Paul also welcome the low-pressure atmosphere of the event. It’s a good way for the young athletes, who can row solo, in doubles, in quads or groups of eight, to get on the same page.
It’s also an opportunity for the more experienced rowers, like Roulston, to chart out their training plans and goals as they get closer to crunch time.
“It’s a good opportunity to get a gauge for where you are in the competition. You have a lot of time before you set yourself up for the August championship regatta,” Roulston said.
There are many complexities to the different disciplines, each placing emphasis on different attributes.
Mallory Gresch, who has been rowing for two years, explained there are unique challenges present in each type. It starts with how secure the boat is.
With the single and double boats it is very easy for them to tip, she said. Balance is a key consideration.
Meanwhile, in the quads and the eights, the boats will remain upright but finding unison, rhythm and chemistry become paramount. Factors such as hand position and height come into the equation.
Roulston said she is planning on working with some of the younger members of the club to form a junior quad team.
The club’s biggest race of the year, the North West International Rowing Association Championship Regatta, will be held on August 8-9 in Kenora on Rabbit Lake.
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