Despite this spring's uncooperative weather, central Ohio's four high school club rowing teams have been getting their seasons started.
Time off the water, though, has been just as important for the Hilliard Rowing Association boys and girls program.
Now in its 14th spring competition season, Hilliard has about a dozen athletes as it tries to put together competitive boats. It opens Saturday, April 21, with the Dillon Lake Scholastic Sprints regatta in Nashport.
"All of our top rowers are motivated to improve and motivate and encourage others," said Eric Olson, an assistant under sixth-year coach Megan Hamlin. "They almost never miss a practice and they're good role models and teachers to their teammates. Both the boys team and the varsity girls are coming off a strong and productive winter session in the gym on the rowing machines and in CrossFit. With the first couple of days back on the water, both groups have shown an increased drive and strong technical retention."
Hilliard also will compete in The Great Scrimmgata on May 5 on Acton Lake in College Corner and the Midwest Junior Rowing Championships on May 19 and 20 on Harsha Lake in Bethel.
Qualifying crews from the Midwest meet will compete in USRowing Youth Nationals from June 8-10 on Lake Natoma in Rancho Cordova, California.
Olson is a former Upper Arlington rower who went on to compete for Oregon State.
Among those competing for the boys team are Hilliard Davidson junior Alex Thackery and Hilliard Darby junior Ethan Wagner.
"We currently have a relatively young but motivated boys team," Olson said. "We have five returning varsity boys. Two are juniors, while the other three are freshmen who started with us while they were in eighth grade. We have one returning novice boy in eighth grade who has integrated well and performs on a varsity level.
"For the boys team, our goals are to increase our presence in sculling events. Through the spring, we want to continue to build power and endurance even with so many young varsity rowers. Additionally, we want to continue to develop skills and speed in small boats."
Among those competing for the girls team are Davidson senior Alexandra Haritos, Hilliard Bradley junior Carolyn Satre, Darby junior Sarah Bryant and Davidson freshman Francis Swindell.
"We want to focus on progress, getting better every day and improving at every regatta," Hamlin said. "(We want to) progress individually and progress together in the boats, progress in athletic ability and endurance and progress in being more efficient on the water."
Dublin aims for strong small boats
Dublin has more than 20 athletes and is focusing on putting together varsity and lightweight 4 boats.
The club opened April 14 in the Cincinnati Invitational on Harsha Lake. It competes in the Dogwood Junior Championships on April 28 and 29 in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and in The Great Scrimmgata before the Midwest Junior Rowing Championships.
"The more we focus on smaller boats, the better we'll do because we have smaller numbers," said fifth-year coach Haley Wuellner, a Toledo St. Ursula graduate who rowed for Ohio State's club team. "Focusing on 4s is definitely a main focus of mine this season and it should show in regattas."
Senior Ivan Wehner and juniors Drew Arocha, Craig Hammons and Matthew Sullivan are on the boys varsity 4, with junior Cydney Howard serving as coxswain.
Sophomore Rye Heastings leads the boys lightweight 4, which also includes junior Jordan Ansara, sophomore Charles Jones, freshman Jacob Rudolph and freshman coxswain Ava Burnham.
Junior Logan Brown leads the girls team. She competes on the varsity 4 along with seniors Jessica Moore and Eileen Schwab, junior Alyson Younkman and junior coxswain Nithya Vadakattu.
Another strong boat, according to Wuellner, is the girls junior 4, which features Brown, Younkman, junior Sarah Duff and sophomore Audrey Helmreich, with Burnham as coxswain.
Arch City looks to build on fall season
Now in its fifth season, Arch City opened with the Cincinnati Invitational.
There are just two seniors in the program in Ella Carney and Ashley Schuliger, both of whom row on the girls varsity 8.
Most of the competitors are from northeastern or northwestern suburbs of Columbus.
"We're still a relatively young team," coach Dave Ferris said. "We've only got two seniors, but we've got everybody else back from the fall. Things went well (in the fall), and that's what we're looking to build off of this season."
Carney competed last season on the girls lightweight 8, which finished 16th at Youth Nationals.
Also returning from that boat are junior Samantha Billey and sophomore Hannah Fowler.
Other key girls rowers include juniors Libby Krueger, Sam Mazza and Val Keller and sophomores Sarah Haney and Maddie Russell.
Arch City has only one boy in freshman Max Zahner, who will compete in a single boat.
Arch City next competes in the Dogwood Junior Championships before participating in the Indianapolis Sprints on May 6 and the Midwest Junior Rowing Championships.
"Our goal would be to qualify boats to nationals, which is in (California) this year," Ferris said. "They've all been getting faster and, obviously, more fit."
Westerville gets season started
Westerville also kicked off its season in the Cincinnati Invitational.
The club, which has been active since 1994 when it moved from downtown Columbus to Westerville, has a nine-member coaching staff that is led by Julio Sanchez (varsity boys) and Allison Sobiech (varsity girls). Sobiech is a 2008 Westerville North graduate who rowed for Westerville as well as Jacksonville University.
Westerville next competes in the Dogwood Junior Championships and in the Indianapolis Sprints before traveling to the Midwest meet.
Senior Tori Cooke and junior Maddie Kirwin have returned to lead the girls team after rowing in a pair boat that finished fifth last year at Youth Nationals.
Both also are expected to be on the team's varsity 8, which also includes seniors Megan Casner, Hailey Martin, Emily Reese and Danielle Shuttleworth, junior Brigid Haugh and sophomore Grace Klima.
"We have a great team this year," Sobiech said. "We're really excited about it. We've had very little water time, but I think we're going to have a good season."
For the boys team last year at Youth Nationals, the lightweight 8 finished ninth and the varsity 8 placed 19th.
Returning from the boys varsity 8 are seniors Lance Berry, Adam Bloom, Keith Cook, Zach Thurston and Joey Trybus and junior coxswain Abby Jung.