Rowing: Central Ohio programs vie at Midwest regatta

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Central Ohio's high school rowing programs

For high school rowing programs looking to return to action after having the 2020 season canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, staying flexible was a necessity. 

Similarly to some other prep sports that traditionally have multiple teams competing in an event, the Westerville, Central Ohio and Olentangy club teams and the Upper Arlington high school program spent much of the fall season and earlier moments this spring participating only in duals and tri-meets. 

The biggest event of the spring so far was the Midwest Junior championships held May 15 and 16 on Harsha Lake in Batavia. 

In past years, the top three boats in each varsity event automatically qualified for the USRowing Youth Nationals. However, this year’s youth nationals – scheduled for June 10-13 at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota, Florida – waived the qualifying standards, allowing any boat to enter.

The Central Ohio Rowing program had the only boat from the area to finish in the top three in the Midwest meet, but the club also plans to send two other boats to youth nationals.

Central Ohio formerly was called Dublin before being renamed last year by coach Chris Swartz, who took over in 2019. 

“When we set out last fall, we were doing mostly dual races and we didn’t do any regattas until (the Midwest meet), but it worked out OK,” said Swartz, who was UA’s coach for 22 years before stepping down in summer 2015. “We got some good racing in. We didn’t get a chance to look at different lineups of boats (before the Midwest meet), but for the most part, the kids have worked really hard and done a good job through some of the craziness.” 

While Westerville draws mostly from the northeast and eastern parts of the Columbus area, the Central Ohio program features athletes from throughout the area, according to Swartz. 

Finishing second for Central Ohio in 7 minutes, 43.995 seconds was the U17 boys varsity 4 of sophomore Aedin Pereira in the stroke seat, junior Kyle Rucker in the 3 seat, sophomore Noah Yanich in the 2 seat, sophomore Ryan Perman in the bow seat and senior Lilly Gintert as coxswain. Gintert has committed to row for Indiana. 

Also expected to compete at youth nationals are seniors Jacob Rudolph and Owen Schultz in a boys pair, with senior Ava Fortney and junior Joy Neal planning to row in a girls pair. Fortney has committed to Ohio State. 

Central Ohio, which added a fourth-place finish (7:53.533) in the U17 boys 8 and a seventh-place finish (7:20.42) in the boys 1st varsity 4, has 56 athletes in its program. 

“Everybody’s numbers are down a little bit,” Swartz said. “A couple of the bigger programs increased their numbers, but most programs lost about 8 to 15 percent.” 

Also in the U17 boys 4 final, Westerville finished fifth (8:49.256). 

In the boys 1st varsity 8 final, Upper Arlington was fifth (6:22.82) and Westerville was seventh (6:35.697). Westerville also was fifth (7:33.01) in the girls U17 varsity 8. 

Upper Arlington placed sixth (8:30.688) and seventh (8:33.936) in the boys varsity 2, sixth (6:56.846) in the boys 1st varsity 4 and seventh (7:52.679) in the girls 1st varsity 4. 

Olentangy entered seven boats, including three 8 boats, but didn’t have any boats reach a final. 

“We kind of got beat up this year as central Ohio programs, but we’re making some progress,” Swartz said. “We thought our U17 boys 8 might get into the medals, but they didn’t quite perform where we thought they would. Everybody else did a nice job.” 

julrey@thisweeknews.com 

@UlreyThisWeek